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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Question: what new plays should be taught in high schools?

I recently received news that Ray Fulmer passed away. He was a tremendously influential teacher at the high school I attended. He was a local poet and actor, a man who had a great passion for writing and drama. He directed me in Spoon River Anthology in high school. We all can probably think of a few teachers that we had growing up that we felt really "got it." That were inspirational and exciting and made us feel like words were beautiful and important.

He'll be missed. I hope he knew that I wandered off to write plays and live out some of the values that I saw him express.

It got me thinking: much of the general public appreciation for theater comes from public school. The high school musical. The production of Our Town or Arsenic and Old Lace. Whatever it is. And of course the high school curriculum includes some drama as well.

So...are there plays written in the last 20 years... meaning from 1990 - 2010 or so, that you feel should be added to the mix for high school students? (Maybe there are some that are already being include of which I am unaware...?) Obviously the challenge is not only what stands the test of time, but what is appropriate for that age group. Should Tracy Letts be taught alongside Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neil, for example? Should David Lindsay-Abaire? Should Sarah Ruhl?

Proof?
Wit?
Doubt?

Another play that has only one word as it's theme and title?

What do you think?

8 comments:

Robert said...

Crumbs from the Table of Joy
The Laramie Project
Top Girls
Spring Awakening
Topdog/Underdog
Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue
True West

Swollen Foot said...

I'd love to see Sarah Kane on the A-level syllabus!! Although she may be a bit inappropriate. :/

Daniel Kelley said...

My girlfriend is currently teaching part 1 of "Angels In America" to her 11th grade AP class, and they love it. It has rich subjects for discussions, and also the characters and world of the play are credibly part of the world that the kids are living in (at least, to a greater degree than all the other plays they've been taught), which helps make theatre less of a foreign thing for them.
This last reason is, I feel, a huge reason why new(ish) plays should be done in classrooms.

Ian Thal said...

Angels in America is a really strong one. I'd also propose Stoppard's Arcadia (though maybe Rock'n'Roll would be easier for students to identify with.)

joshcon80 said...

A lot of the stuff people are listing is from before 1990, no?

I'd say:

Angels in America
The Laramie Project
Topdog/Underdog

I'd throw Tracy Letts and Sarah Ruhl in there too.

Also, she's not really canon or anything, but young people really respond to a lot of Naomi Iizuka's plays.

Freeman said...

Looks like Angels in America is a consensus. There are a few "prior to 1990" plays here. tsk, tsk.

Am I entirely wrong in assuming that there are schools that will find an objection to the content of Angels? Rightly or wrongly?

Ian Thal said...

Am I entirely wrong in assuming that there are schools that will find an objection to the content of Angels?

Based on my experience as a teacher, it would probably work well in an AP literature or drama studies class. Objections would probably be according to class and geography: teachers would be excited to teach it, but a lot of objections would come from students and parents.

Swollen Foot said...

Joshcon80 - You might be pleased to know that The Laramie Project actually is being taught in schools! My sister is studying it for A-level. :)