Every year, the Educational Theatre Association takes a look at which plays are playing on high school stages all across America.
For playwrights, it's an interesting list--it lets us see how much modern work is filtering its way down into the mainstream educational world. In terms of full-length plays, the answer is not much. The sole exception is Almost, Maine, by John Cariani, published by Dramatists Play Service. The play has an interesting history, which was detailed by the NY Times a few weeks ago. Though it would be nice for playwrights to take some hope, knowing that a play that flopped in NYC has a big life afterwards, the discouraging part is that it still took a commercial NY run to grab enough attention for it to play in a lot of other venues. Most of our plays won't ever get an Off Broadway run, successful or otherwise. It's not a surprise that the play is episodic and can be done with a large cast--a requirement to succeed in the high school market.
The top ten short plays performed by high schools (most are large-cast, half-hour comedies) is where you'll see work by various contemporary writers. Notice that Playscripts publishes seven of the plays on this top ten list, with Jonathan Rand having written half of them. (Christopher Durang is probably the only well-known playwright in the top ten.) Last year, some of the smaller publishers had plays on the list, but this year, we only have Playscripts, Dramatists Play Service, Dramatic Publishing, and Samuel French. I'd sure love to see YouthPlays or some of the other smaller publishers crack this list again (I'm sure they would, too).
If you're writing for this market, it's a great idea to buy and read these scripts and see what's selling these days. This is certainly a list where I'd like to see some of my one-acts someday. I wrote two new half-hour, large cast high school comedies last year (Reassembling Sasha from YouthPlays and The Next Big Thing from Brooklyn), butit'll take a while for them to get some traction. If I can find the time, I hope to write at least one more for this year.
I'll paste in the top ten short plays list here:
1. Check Please, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
2. Check Please: Take 3, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
3. (tie) The Actor's Nightmare, by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)
3. (tie) 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview, by Ian McWethy (Playscripts, Inc.)
5. Check Please: Take 2, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
6. (tie) The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, by Don Zolidis (Playscripts, Inc.)
6. (tie) Hard Candy, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
8. (tie) Competition Piece, by John S. Wells (Samuel French)
8. (tie) How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
10. This Is a Test, by Stephen Gregg (Dramatic Publishing Co.)