PLAY SYNOPSES/ANALYSES - The Ultimate Scene and Monologue Sourcebook: An Actor's Guide to over 1000 Monologues and Dialogues from More Than 300 Contemporary Plays - Ed Hooks

The Ultimate Scene and Monologue Sourcebook: An Actor's Guide to over 1000 Monologues and Dialogues from More Than 300 Contemporary Plays - Ed Hooks (2007)



by Alan Ayckbourn (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Colin’s fiancée recently drowned, and a group of former friends have invited him to a tea party to lift his spirits. The problem is that his friends have marital and other personal problems of their own, and Colin is quite happy with his sentimental memories. The more they try to take his mind off his deceased lover, the more he insists on talking about her, which depresses everyone. He then good-naturedly tries to solve their problems, which makes the get-together even more disastrous.

ANALYSIS: This play is one of Alan Ayckbourn’s less-often performed comedies, significant for its lack of physical action. For the most part, the characters sit around a table talking, so the humor comes from what the audience members discover about their lives. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Alan Ayckbourn (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Three couples gather on three consecutive Christmas Eves, and the action takes place in their respective kitchens. In the course of these three years, the characters go through reversals of fortune. The struggling couple in Act I become real-estate moguls in Act III, while the bank manager who lends them money in Act I watches his marriage and business fall apart at the same time. The third couple, an architect and his wife, go from blue skies to attempted suicide.

ANALYSIS: This 1972 comedy starts out with humor, leans toward farce in Act II, and by the end, turns dark. With Alan Ayckbourn, the structure is frequently the thing. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in Quentin’s mind and memory as he tries desperately to find meaningful connections in his life. There is no plot per se; the scenes jump around like the workings of his mind, involving confrontations with former wives, as well as his parents, brother, and business associates.

ANALYSIS: Difficult, intellectually challenging material appropriate for advanced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by John Pielmeier (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A troubled young nun with practically no exposure to the outside world surprises everyone by having a baby at the convent. At birth, the infant is killed and stuffed into a wastebasket. Who is the father? Who killed the baby? Was Agnes alone in the room when the baby was born? She claims not to remember anything about the event and refuses to name the father, even under hypnosis. The core of the drama focuses on the efforts of a court-appointed psychiatrist to determine whether Agnes is sane and the psychiatrist’s conflict with Catholicism and Agnes’s Mother Superior.

ANALYSIS: This marvelously theatrical drama, which is played out on a bare stage, is chock-full of tense scenes that address universal issues. Each of the characters is strongly defined. Amanda Plummer won a Tony for playing Agnes in the 1982 production. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2), Female/Female Scenes (3)


by Eugene O’Neill (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: An innocent coming-of-age story set on the Connecticut shore, July 4, 1906. Exploding fireworks provide the backdrop for exploding passions, both romantic and political, for sixteen-year-old Richard Miller, fresh out of high school and already a confirmed individualist. When he presents his lady love with verses of purple poetry from the pages of Algernon Charles Swinburne, all hell breaks loose. Everyone gets upset for a while but in the end, the young lovers are together once again—and probably forever.

ANALYSIS: Completed in 1942, this is Eugene O’Neill’s only full-length comedy. It draws on his memories of a boyhood love for one Maibelle Scott. The famous George M. Cohan played Nat Miller in the first production. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The background: Joe Keller and Steve Deever were neighbors and business partners until their company sold defective airplane-engine parts during World War II, a crime for which Steve went to prison. Joe maintained his innocence, served a very short prison sentence, and continued to build a prosperous business alone. But he was actually more at fault than Steve. The defective parts resulted in twenty-one plane crashes, and when Steve’s Army-officer son, Larry, learned the truth about his father’s complicity, he was so deeply ashamed, he committed suicide in combat.

During the play, Joe’s youngest son, Chris, becomes engaged to Larry’s former fiancée, Ann, and everyone in the family finally has to confront the facts of Joe’s crime. Unable to live with the guilt of his actions once they are out in the open, Joe commits suicide.

ANALYSIS: A classic from 1947 about the decisions people make in life and their consequences. Elia Kazan won the very first Tony Award for directing the play. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Peter Shaffer (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The story of Mozart’s life and early death as told by Antonio Salieri, a less-talented, fatally jealous composer and court favorite. The premise of the play is that Salieri himself orchestrated Mozart’s tragic demise.

ANALYSIS: Brilliant in concept and presentation, Amadeus unfortunately provides little opportunity for scenework. It won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Director in 1980. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by James Baldwin (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Sister Margaret Alexander is the pastor of a small Harlem church located above the apartment where she lives with her son, David, and her older sister. To all appearances, Margaret is a passionate, committed spokeswoman for the Lord. But her entire life starts to crumble when her former husband, Luke, shows up, clearly nearing the end of his life. His presence in the home rivets the couple’s eighteen-year-old son, who has been trying to decide whether or not to follow in the footsteps of his musician father, a life that his mother claims is sinful. Luke also affects Margaret, reminding her of the pleasures of marriage she left behind ten years ago when she walked out with son David.

Meanwhile, the church elders are watching this family drama play out and have come to question Margaret’s sanctity. They conspire to have her removed as a pastor. In the final moments of the play, David leaves home for good, determined to be a professional musician, and Margaret acknowledges her love for Luke as he dies in her arms. Although she’ll no longer lead the small church, she has found a more profound peace in human love and acceptance.

ANALYSIS: A lovely 1961 drama by a major American writer, full of insight and poetry. The entire cast is African-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (3), Female Monologues (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Paul Carter Harrison (Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory, edited by Paul Carter Harrison, Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: Harper, a private investigator responsible for reconnoitering a Memphis motel before Martin Luther King’s arrival, is distracted from his job when he comes across Cass. She is a recluse living in the rooming house from which the fatal bullet is ultimately fired. Cass is suffering from a grave sense of imminent violence and solicits Harper’s help.

ANALYSIS: Difficult two-character play requiring strong, intelligent, trusting actors. A continual air of danger and sexual attraction permeates the drama.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by David Mamet (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Three small-time crooks plot to steal a coin collection. Don Dubrow, the owner of the junk shop where they hang out, is calling the shots. Teach maneuvers to cut Bob, his rather slow-witted gofer, out of the job and the money. In the end, violence erupts, and the robbery doesn’t take place.

ANALYSIS: This play, David Mamet’s first to reach Broadway, won the Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play in 1977. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (3)


by Richard Greenberg (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Eva Adler, her daughter, Lili, and their maid, Olivia, are spending another summer in the Catskills. Lili meets, falls in love with, and becomes engaged to a nice young man staying in the hotel across the lake. Then everything unravels as the audience learns that the young man is gay. Lili is emotionally frail, and Eva is haunted by memories of Nazi Germany. The play covers a twenty-year span from the 1950s through the 1970s.

ANALYSIS: Very complex characters populate this finely imagined 1991 play. At first it appears almost like a romantic comedy but then turns quite dark. Most individual scenes are fairly straightforward, but the subtext takes them to a different level. This makes for some interesting acting challenges. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Marcelle Maurette (adapted by Guy Bolton, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Bounine, former aide-de-camp to the late Russian tsar Nicholas II and more recently a cab driver in Berlin, discovers a young woman who has confessed to a hospital nurse that she is the Tsar’s only-surviving daughter, Anastasia. When Bounine confronts her with this rumor, she denies it, claiming that she just made up the story for something to do. However, he is aware that if the real Anastasia were ever to surface, she would inherit the huge fortune left behind when all the other members of her family were assassinated in 1918. So Bounine and some unscrupulous cohorts conspire to pass the woman off as the real Anastasia with the intention of gaining access to the money.

The trouble with the men’s scheme is that the woman is inconsistent; sometimes she cooperates and sometimes she doesn’t. She may, in fact, be brain-damaged from a violent factory explosion. Nonetheless, the men persist until they finally persuade the woman to go alone with their plan. Then, at the very moment she is to be presented to the public and the press, she walks out the back door and disappears into the streets. The play ends with a strong implication that the woman may indeed be the real Anastasia, but life has become too complicated for her to handle.

ANALYSIS: This 1954 play deals with a large subject. There are several good scenes. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Saul Levitt (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Based on the actual 1865 trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, who was in charge of the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia during the Civil War. Approximately 14,000 Union soldiers died there, most of whom fell prey to bad food and water, insufficient clothing, and disease. Wirz was found guilty of conspiracy to kill the soldiers and was executed.

ANALYSIS: Courtroom dramas can be fun because they frequently address moral issues headon. On the other hand, the plays provide few two-person scenes. Young George C. Scott played Colonel Chipman in the 1959 premiere. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Paul Zindel (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The ultimate dysfunctional family, full of religious guilt and plenty of dirty little secrets. Probably set in Queens, New York, although the location isn’t specified. Three sisters work in the educational system: Anna is a high-school chemistry teacher, Catherine is an assistant principal, and Ceil is a member of the school board. After their mother’s recent death, Anna had a nervous breakdown and was sexually involved with a high-school student. His parents are now threatening to sue the school unless Anna is sent to a hospital for psychological treatment. The action of the play revolves around Ceil and Catherine’s struggle to decide whether to have Anna committed. Ultimately, they do put her in the hospital.

ANALYSIS: Well-written, caustic. Played Broadway in 1971. Estelle Parsons was nominated for a Tony, and Rae Allen won one. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Tony Kushner (Theatre Communications Group)

SYNOPSIS: A simple description of the characters and plot is not only impossible but also can’t begin to do justice to this remarkable play, which blends reality with fantasy, humans with angels, and the past with the present—and then asks the audience to look at the meaning of it all through the rosy prism of Ronald Reagan’s vision of America. The vast canvas of this challenging work is anchored by two couples, one gay and one heterosexual, whose respective relationships dissolve and recombine in unexpected ways.

ANALYSIS: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is presented in two parts, the first of which is Millennium Approaches, and the second of which is Perestroika. Graphic and frequently disturbing as the play wrestles with erotic and political themes, scenework is appropriate for experienced actors. The play won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize as well as four Tony Awards, including Best Play.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Eugene O’Neill (Anna Christie, The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape; Vintage Books)

SYNOPSIS: Anna has traveled from middle-America to New York City for a reunion with her father, whom she hasn’t seen for fifteen years. She moves in with him on the coal barge he captains and is happy in the fresh sea air and crisp fog. A few days later, a group of shipwrecked sailors are brought on board, and Anna immediately falls in love with one of them, an Irishman named Mat Burke. He proposes marriage but, strangely, Anna won’t accept. Then, in a tumultuous confession, she tells Mat and her father that she isn’t the innocent farm girl they presume her to be, and that she was abused by her foster family and had turned to prostitution. The men react not with compassion and understanding, but with horror and anger. Both feel betrayed by Anna’s sordid past. When they stumble off on a drunken binge, Anna concludes that all men are despicable and that reform is futile.

But as Anna prepares to return to the street, the men come back, full of remorse. Mat still wants to marry her after all, and her father has made arrangements for her financial security while he is away at sea. Ironically, the two men are going to ship out on the same boat to Cape Town. Anna accepts Mat’s proposal and, as the men depart, she promises to make a nice home for them to return to.

ANALYSIS: Eugene O’Neill took a great deal of heat for—and was defensive about—putting a too-pat happy ending on Anna Christie. Still, this 1921 drama popularized O’Neill’s name once and for all and won him a second Pulitzer Prize. Greta Garbo’s first “talking” film was the 1930 version of Anna Christie. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by A. R. Gurney, Jr. (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Henry Harper is an intellectually aloof teacher of Greek drama at a Boston college. One of his senior students, Judy Miller, hands in a new version of the Greek classic Antigone, readapting it so that it now reads as an antinuclear-arms statement. Unimpressed by Judy’s efforts, Henry considers the rewrite to be “another Antigone,” lacking in discipline and ignorant of the meaning of tragedy, just like similar efforts made by previous students; he refuses to give her a passing grade. When Judy decides to follow through with her play, to see it produced at the college, teacher and student divide into warring camps. In the spirit of Greek tragedy, these opposing forces cause each other grief.

ANALYSIS: This is a relatively unknown gem from A. R. Gurney, Jr.; intellectually challenging, full of excellent scenes and monologues, beautifully written and conceived. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Tina Howe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The Blossom family drives 2,000 miles from Hastings, New York, to Taos, New Mexico, in order to visit Aunt Olivia, a famous artist, before she dies. On the way they frolic, argue, meet strangers, have nightmares, play jokes, sleep in tents, and learn about life.

ANALYSIS: The sole reason I am including this play is because it contains an excellent monologue for an older actress. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Yasmina Reza (Faber and Faber)

SYNOPSIS: Serge buys a white-on-white modern painting for a small fortune. His long-time friend Marc cannot understand how someone he thinks he knows so well could do something so stupid. The purchase calls into question the values held by each man.

ANALYSIS: This is wonderful material for acting class. Written in the British vernacular, you may have to adapt it a bit if you want to do it American style.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Lillian Hellman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Constance Tuckerman hosts the same visitors each year at her summer boardinghouse near the Gulf of Mexico, about one hundred miles from New Orleans. Most of the people are middle-aged or older, facing the autumn of their lives, and the play, which takes place during September 1949, provides a platform for them to take stock of their personal values and prospects.

ANALYSIS: Lillian Hellman must have been influenced by Anton Chekhov’s manner of probing the human character when she wrote The Autumn Garden. She and producer Kermit Bloomgarden even hired Harold Clurman of Group Theatre fame to direct this character-driven 1951 work on Broadway. It received mixed notices and closed after 102 performances. It is excellent fodder for scene study, however. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Jane Anderson (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Rachel and Richard are a childless, upwardly mobile, educated Hollywood showbiz couple who advertise for, and then decide to purchase, the as-yet-unborn child of Wanda and Al, a dirt-poor Louisiana couple. Act I takes place in Wanda and Al’s trailer home, and Act II is set in the hospital on the day the baby is born. As the play evolves, the baby suffers oxygen deprivation, and the Hollywood couple back out of the deal on account of the possibility that they might be purchasing “damaged goods.”

ANALYSIS: This play forces the audience to confront some volatile modern-day issues. The Baby Dance is billed as a drama, a good point to keep in mind since there is considerable opportunity for comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (3)


by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The story follows the mostly irrational events in the life of a male child named Daisy. That’s right, Daisy. The boy has a girl’s name, and most people think he is in fact a girl.

ANALYSIS: An outlandish 1984 comedy that is full of unexplained leaps and acting transitions. Actors who work on the piece should carefully read Christopher Durang’s notes (in the back of the Dramatists Play Service acting edition pp. 55-62).

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Terrence McNally (1990 revised edition, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: On either side of a tranquil lake somewhere near New York City are two sanitariums where people come to be cured of their bad habits. At Dunelawn the patients are encouraged to revel in self-indulgence. They can, for example, smoke, drink, and eat high-cholesterol diets on the premise that it is best to be happy and that, if you are, the habits are not bad. The regimen at Ravenswood, on the other hand, calls for extreme self-denial and injections of serum that transform all the patients into identical automatons. There are no plots per se in these back-to-back one-act plays, just a crazy-quilt assembly line of neurotic characters trying to work out their problems.

ANALYSIS: Actors love to work on this material because it is broad and wacky. Remember, however, that underneath the comedy, each character is serious. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Corie and Paul are newlyweds who have moved into their very first apartment, a fifth-floor walk-up on New York’s Lower East Side. Visitors one encounters during the play include Corie’s widowed mother, a telephone repairman, a deliveryman and the colorful upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco. The primary action involves Corie’s attempt to set up her mom on a blind date with Mr. Velasco. Also, Corie and Paul have their first big marital argument, which is, of course, way overplayed because they are newlyweds.

ANALYSIS: Barefoot in the Park was first produced in New York in 1963. It is the play that made Robert Redford a star. Its joy derives from its total innocence and goodwill.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Anton Chekhov (The Sneeze: Plays and Stories by Anton Chekhov, translated and adapted by Michael Frayn, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Widow Popova’s late husband owes Smirnov 1,200 rubles. When she can’t pay the debt, Smirnov flies into a rage, refusing to leave her home until she comes up with the money. They argue and bicker until they agree to a pistol duel. But as Smirnov teaches the widow how to use the weapon, he realizes that he has fallen in love with her. So he proposes marriage. After some resistance, she accepts.

ANALYSIS: Delightful short comedy, truly funny. Michael Frayn does with Anton Chekhov what Richard Wilbur does with Molière. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by James Sherman (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Sarah Goldman is a nice Jewish girl whose parents won’t leave her alone about marriage. The truth is that she is happy being single. Furthermore, her current boyfriend, Chris, is not Jewish. To get her parents off her back, Sarah invents—out of thin air—a “proper” boyfriend, a Jewish doctor. Her parents of course insist on meeting him, and so Sarah arranges for a small dinner party. To complicate things, she contacts an escort service and hires a man who will pretend to be the Jewish doctor. The escort, Bob Schroeder, arrives and plays his part perfectly, completely winning over Sarah’s parents. Later, Sarah and Bob fall for each other for real. Amid much comic confusion, Sarah and Bob look forward to the future together.

ANALYSIS: Good-natured, often very funny comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Martin McDonagh (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Maureen, a forty-year-old, mentally fragile virgin, is locked into terminal codependency with her continually complaining seventy-year-old mother, Mag. The two of them live in a sad little cottage in County Galway, Ireland, continually abusing one another. At times their exchanges are wildly funny and, at others, downright dangerous. Like an iceberg in which only a small fraction of the ice shows above the waterline, this complex mother/daughter relationship runs deep and, in the end, gives way to violence. The catalyst for the final resolution is a failed romantic courtship between Maureen and a local man named Pato Dooley. Mag is of course threatened by the prospect of Maureen abandoning her for a husband, and Maureen sees Pato as perhaps her only way out.

ANALYSIS: This rich material is appropriate for advanced actors. Don’t try it unless you are comfortable portraying an Irish accent and Irish ways.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: My favorite of these comedies is Bill and Laura, in which a recently separated couple accidentally turns up as guests at the same dinner party. The entire confrontation takes place in the bedroom where the guests put their coats on a bed. It is wild and wooly physical comedy that ends with the two of them back in one another’s arms.

There is also a charming monologue in David and Nancy. David is the nervous father of the bride-to-be. He wakes his daughter, Nancy, in the middle of the night to tell her that he has changed his mind about allowing her to get married. The scene ends with a tender embrace and, naturally, the wedding is on.

ANALYSIS: Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna are top-notch comedy writers, always fun. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by John Van Druten (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Gillian Holroyd is an honest-to-goodness witch who lives in the Murray Hill section of New York City among her relatives. She becomes smitten with Sheperd Henderson, the handsome publisher who lives in her building, so she casts a spell on him to guarantee his affections. When Sheperd finds out what Gillian did, he storms out. By then, however, she is truly in love, an emotion that causes her to lose her magical powers. (Witches can’t fall in love, you see.) But in the end, Gillian and Sheperd get back together anyway and proceed down the yellow brick road.

ANALYSIS: Silly stuff, but this 1951 comedy holds up surprisingly well. It ran for 200 performances on Broadway and then was made into a 1958 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. It is also part of the material upon which the hit TV series Bewitched was based. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Martin Sherman (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: One of the few classes of people considered lower than Jews in Nazi Germany were homosexuals. Jews were required to wear yellow stars, and homosexuals forced to wear pink ones. Here, Max and Rudy must flee Berlin after a high-ranking homosexual Nazi officer is murdered. They are caught, and while being transported to Dachau, the guards kill Rudy. In the camp, Max begins a relationship with another gay prisoner, Horst, an act of love that sustains them even though they can’t touch one another physically. In the end, both men die in the camp.

ANALYSIS: Powerful, sexually graphic, beautifully written. Absolutely inappropriate for novice actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (4)


by Harold Pinter (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This one-act play begins two years after the end of Jerry and Emma’s seven-year affair and moves progressively backward in time, ending with the day they decided to begin their relationship. Along the way, the consequences of their choices are sifted and exposed.

ANALYSIS: Wonderful adult material, complex relationships, brilliantly written by one of the twentieth century’s greatest playwrights. Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. Betrayal was turned into a superb 1983 movie starring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (4)


by Matt Williams (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set against a background of the strip-mining coal industry in southern Indiana, the story focuses on the relationships between three miners’ wives: Carla, Marlene, and Lorette. Carla longs to take her child and escape her dreary trailer park existence and a husband who has let himself go to pot. Marlene, pregnant and already the mother of two, thinks she should stand by her man no matter how tough things get. Lorette has seen it all in her sixty years and thinks the other two women are plain silly. Then, suddenly, Marlene’s husband is killed in a mining accident, and the issues the women face take on deeper implications.

ANALYSIS: There is a nice feeling of authenticity about this 1979 comedy-drama. The playwright captures the dialogue of small-town America. Maybe the play gets a bit corny at times, but it is definitely worth the effort. Good material. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Christopher Durang (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Bruce and Prudence meet through a personal ad, but they don’t click right away. It turns out that Bruce is living with his male lover, Bob, and Prudence is sleeping with her psychiatrist. Soon, both their therapists and Bob are mixed up in a bizarre quest for romance and happiness. There doesn’t seem to be a sane character in the play. But then, what is sanity?

ANALYSIS: Wild, wonderfully improbable comedy. Actors love to play this stuff. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (5), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Leonard Melfi (Encounters: Six One-Act Plays by Leonard Melfi, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Velma and Frankie work at a New York cafeteria, she as a waitress, he as a cashier. Tonight, for the first time, they speak to one another, and Velma winds up going to Frankie’s apartment for some tea. Once there, he drinks premixed martinis until he is stoned and, after a while, she joins him. As the alcohol takes effect and as Frankie pushes Velma gently but insistently toward the bed, the audience learns how deeply troubled and strange Velma really is. She becomes increasingly agitated until, finally, in an outburst, she pulls a blood-encrusted knife from her purse, threatening to stab Frankie. Then she confesses that she killed her mother that very morning. Exhausted by hysteria and fear, Velma falls asleep on the bed as Frankie writes a poem about her.

ANALYSIS: This is vintage 1960s off-off Broadway material, intensely emotional. A classic of its kind, it is still produced in regional theaters today.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Naomi Wallace (adapted from the William Wharton novel, Broadway Play Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: Birdy got his curious nickname back in high school because of his obsession with—and even identification with—birds. He used to actually attempt flight by donning feathers and jumping off high places; he also collected many pigeons, canaries, and parakeets in his bedroom. By the time we meet him in his early 20s in a military psychiatric hospital after World War II, he has totally withdrawn into a bird world. He squats on his bunk, will not talk, and must be handfed by hospital orderlies. His lifelong friend, Al, who also has psychological problems—though nothing approaching schizophrenia—winds up in the same hospital. Al tries to penetrate the mental fog that surrounds Birdy in order to pull him back into the real world.

ANALYSIS: This is challenging and fascinating material. Unfortunately, most of the scenes in Ms. Wallace’s adaptation are not useful for workshop because they bounce back and forth in time and involve three or four actors. I have selected one that will work (if you eliminate a character), plus three monologues. Naomi Wallace is, by the way, a MacArthur “Genius” Award winner.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (3)


by Eric Bogosian (Love’s Fire—Seven New Plays Inspired by Seven Shakespearean Sonnets, William Morrow)

SYNOPSIS: Rengin is a pie-faced drunk when we first meet her. And she is sloppily wearing the wedding gown she is supposed to don tomorrow when she gets married to Herman. Soon we discover that Rengin has a secret: She has been carrying on a sex-only relationship with a biker named Red, who is scheduled to arrive shortly for a little pre-wedding nookie. Herman, her good hearted and totally unsuspecting fiancé, arrives first and sets about sobering her up. During all of this he finds out about Red and is, of course, astonished. Before he can really resolve that issue with Rengin, Red arrives and there is a confrontation between the two men. Herman outwits Red, sending him packing into the night. Rengin and Herman will probably live happily ever after.

ANALYSIS: Actors love to do this one-act comedy because they get to “chew the scenery.” The given circumstances are outrageously funny, and it is always fun to portray a comic character that is drunk. Also, Rengin has all of this sexual hanky-panky going on. In short, this is a wonderful workout.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Craig Lucas (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Libby was seriously injured and her husband killed in a freak fall from their New York apartment building balcony. The action of Blue Window revolves around a dinner party—her first attempt to socialize since the accident. It follows the goings-on in three different apartments as the party guests prepare for and then attend Libby’s party. The blue window of the title refers to a wished-for window into people’s emotions.

ANALYSIS: It can be a little difficult to read this play because of the unusual way it is laid out on the printed page. It works wonderfully on stage, however. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Garson Kanin (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Harry Brock, a self-made millionaire and brash con man, is worried that his beautiful but dumb girlfriend, Billie Dawn, is going to be an embarrassment to him as he wines and dines the movers and shakers in Washington, DC. He is intent on “purchasing” self-serving legislation. So, as he continues along his path of corruption, he arranges for a serious-minded journalist to tutor Billie Dawn, to “show her the ropes” in Washington. Naturally, the tutor and his charge fall in love and, as she becomes better educated, Billie develops a social conscience. In the end, the new lovers exit together, managing to thwart Harry’s dastardly scheme.

ANALYSIS: A delightful 1946 Broadway comedy that ran for 1,642 performances. Judy Holliday became a star playing the ex-chorine, Billie Dawn. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by John Guare (revised edition, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Deirdre and Scooper have sat across from one another in their psychiatrist’s New York waiting room for years but have never spoken until today. The event that motivates them to talk is their shrink’s imminent, always-anxiety-provoking yearly August vacation. For serious and committed psychotherapy patients, this means they will be on their own for a few weeks. And so Deirdre and Scooper meet and wind up at her apartment telling one another about their respective lives. Scooper’s blind octogenarian mother, Henny, is suffering from advanced cancer, and he has been having a long-term affair with his best friend’s wife. Deirdre exposes her violent side when she describes the time she hit a lover in the head with a glass ashtray. It was that confrontation, in fact, that brought her into psychotherapy. Clearly Deirdre and Scooper both have troubled and questing souls, and their unresolved issues and tensions are what comprise the bulk of Bosoms and Neglect. Often clever, always literary, and at times surprisingly violent and erotic, their relationship is fascinating and complex.

ANALYSIS: John Guare (House of Blue Leaves, Marco Polo Sings a Solo) can be an intellectual playwright when he wants to be, and here he is truly strutting his stuff. Page after page of Bosoms and Neglect contains literary references and, speaking just for myself, I felt sort of stupid from time to time because I was unfamiliar with some of the books. But I stuck with it. In the end, you don’t really need to be an avid reader to grasp the dynamic and mutually needy relationship that develops between Deirdre and Scooper.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Howard Korder (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Jack, Don, and Phil navigate the dating/marriage scene during the disjointed, upwardly mobile, spiritually empty, sexually threatening 1980s.

ANALYSIS: This one-act play, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1988, captures the undercurrent of anxiety in respect to dating and hints at a major confusion about male/female relationships. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Hugh Whitemore (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Based on the true story of Alan Turing, a gay British mathematician who broke an important secret German code during World War II. Homosexuality was a crime in England during the 1940s, and Turing’s government trial caused him acute public embarrassment and humiliation. Ultimately, Turing committed suicide.

ANALYSIS: Derek Jacobi and Michael Gough received Tony nominations in 1988 for their work in this play. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Donald Margulies (Theatre Communications Group)

SYNOPSIS: Eric Weiss, now in his mid-forties and stumbling into a divorce, has achieved overnight success as a novelist. His book, Brooklyn Boy, is number eleven on the NY Times best seller list, and he’s making money at last. Theoretically, Eric has moved up a notch in social status, but it’s not enough to overcome his Brooklynite middle-class background: Can you ever actually escape your roots?

ANALYSIS: Donald Margulies won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000 for Dinner with Friends. He is an immensely talented writer with a knack for creating characters that are instantly recognizable. Brooklyn Boy is maybe a bit more personal for him because, as he explains in an introduction, it was inspired by his personal relationship with the late playwright Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns). Gardner suggested to Margulies that he write something about his Brooklyn roots.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Lanford Wilson (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This play deals with the people who come together after a freak boating accident during which Robbie, Anna’s gay roommate, is killed. Pale, Robbie’s erratic and volatile brother, comes to collect Robbie’s belongings and immediately begins a tempestuous romance with Anna, who has become bored by the sterile relationship she has with Burton, a Hollywood screenwriter. Anna, however, is frightened by Pale’s powerful personality, his unpredictability, and her own needs. When Larry, Anna’s other gay roommate, realizes that she should be with Pale and not Burton, he choreographs a situation that brings them together by the final curtain.

ANALYSIS: Hip and well written. The character of Pale, played first by John Malkovich, is particularly colorful and challenging. Appropriate for mature actors of all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Simon Gray (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Ben Butley is a bisexual English professor at the College of London University, a man burnt out on teaching and love. The play follows him through a single day during which he learns that his estranged wife plans to remarry, and that his male lover—and former student—is going to move in with another man. All the action takes place in Butley’s cluttered office.

ANALYSIS: Alan Bates successfully nailed the title role in the London production, which was directed by Harold Pinter, and again on Broadway in 1972. Written in the British vernacular.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (3)


by George Bernard Shaw (Signet)

SYNOPSIS: In 1894, Candida Morell and her minister husband, James, befriend a sensitive and rather helpless young poet, Eugene Marchbanks. Subsequently, she has to choose between the men, who have radically different notions about love and marriage. In the surprising final moments of the play, she chooses “the weaker of the two,” namely, her strong, manly, vigorous husband. By doing this, she benevolently rejects the romantic premises of each man, establishing her own turf as an independent woman.

ANALYSIS: George Bernard Shaw’s fifth play, frequently revived. Actors who appreciate the lush use of language will enjoy working on this most. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Big Daddy, a millionaire southern landowner with an estate that includes some 28,000 acres, is dying and doesn’t have a will. The central event of this play revolves around a family celebration for Big Daddy’s sixty-fifth birthday. While he does not yet realize that his illness is terminal, everybody else does, so that there is a great deal of jostling for favor in the will they all hope he’ll write.

Big Daddy’s greedy older son, Gooper, is in a nasty contest of one-upmanship with Maggie, his brother Brick’s wife. If anyone is a sentimental favorite to be named prominently in the will, however, it is Brick, the alcoholic son who is indifferent to the prospect of great wealth. He is also bored by the spectacle of everybody kissing up to Big Daddy. Brick is depressed by the death of his longtime friend, Skipper. A constant background question in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is whether or not Brick and Skipper were lovers. What is certain is that Brick no longer is intimate with Margaret, and everybody knows it.

ANALYSIS: This great American classic won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize. Tennessee Williams was criticized in some quarters for not resolving the question of Brick’s sexuality. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Novelist George Schneider is recovering from the death of his wife. Actress Jennie Malone is rebounding from a divorce. So George’s brother arranges a blind-date introduction. After an ecstatic two-week courtship, George and Jennie marry and leave on their honeymoon. But memories of George’s deceased wife haunt him, and he is unable to commit to this new union. When Jennie realizes that she can’t successfully compete with a memory, the newlyweds split up. Within weeks, however, George undergoes a catharsis and reunites with Jennie, presumably to live happily ever after.

ANALYSIS: This semiautobiographical 1977 play is dedicated to actress Marsha Mason, whom Neil Simon married shortly after the death of his first wife. Witty and moving. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Horton Foote (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Law-abiding citizens in the tranquil Texas town of Richmond are terrorized by “Bubber” Reeves, a homegrown escaped murderer who is bent on revenge against the local sheriff. One by one, frightened business leaders turn against Sheriff Hawes when he is frustrated in his search for the killer and won’t provide each of them with individual guard service. They remind him who pays his salary, threaten to see him defeated in the next election, and promise to deny him the farm loan he wants badly. By the time Hawes finally shoots down Bubber in a shack outside of town, the citizens have shown their true colors. They have proven themselves to be the moral and ethical equals of the man they’ve been hunting.

ANALYSIS: Shades of High Noon. This 1952 play was the basis for the 1966 movie of the same name, starring Marlon Brando and Robert Redford. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Michael Jacobs (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Michelle walks out on Allen because he won’t seriously commit to their relationship. She thinks that eighteen months is long enough to have been living together, and she wants to get married. The breakup leads to the involvement of their respective parents who, it turns out, are having affairs with one another. In the end, Michelle and Allen set a wedding date.

ANALYSIS: This 1972 comedy has a thoroughly convoluted plot, but the opening scene between Michelle and Allen is hysterically funny and very well written. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Anton Chekhov (Chekhov, The Major Plays; translated by Ann Dunnigan, Signet Books)

SYNOPSIS: Unable to pay taxes on the family estate, Lyuboff Ranevskaya and her brother wind up losing the property in a public auction, rather than allowing their beloved cherry orchard to be sold to a developer.

ANALYSIS: Anton Chekhov’s last play, arguably his best. It doesn’t provide many opportunities for workshop scenework, however, because the stage is almost always full of characters. The few possibilities that exist are, in my opinion, too short. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1)


by Mark Medoff (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: James Leeds is a teacher at a state school for the deaf, and his new student, Sarah Norman, is a deaf woman who adamantly refuses to speak; she prefers to sign. The teacher/student relationship evolves into a love affair that by Act II results in their marriage. Their union isn’t a perfect one, however, because Sarah suffers on account of her deep shame. Before long, her attempts to turn away from her deaf friends and to merge completely with the hearing world force Sarah and James to reassess the basis of their relationship and, indeed, the basis of all communication.

ANALYSIS: Written in 1980 as a vehicle for deaf actress Phyllis Frelich, Children of a Lesser God won a Tony for Best Play. Frelich won for Best Actress, and John Rubinstein won for Best Actor. The role of Sarah requires expert use of signed English.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (5), Male Monologues (1)


by Lillian Hellman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Karen and Martha saved their money for eight long years to purchase a farm and start a girls’ school, and the place is just starting to pay for itself when their world falls apart. A fourteen-year-old student accuses the women of being lesbians, and the resulting public furor destroys their reputation and business. When Dr. Joseph Cardin, their only ally and Karen’s fiancé, admits that he, too, suspects that the allegations are true, the women are thrown into utter desperation. Martha, in a moment of deep introspection, wonders aloud if perhaps she does love Karen in an “unnatural” way. When Karen responds to this insight with hostility, Martha walks into the next room and kills herself. Then, in an anticlimax, it comes to light that the charges were false, the construction of a maladjusted child.

ANALYSIS: On one level, The Children’s Hour is the story of a devilish child running amok; on a more serious level, it is an examination of the relationship between two women. Ultimately, playwright Lillian Hellman doesn’t resolve this bigger issue about their sexuality, and the ending is therefore something of a letdown. Still, this was Hellman’s first produced play and her biggest hit, running 691 performances on Broadway. In 1934, lesbianism was a controversial subject, and the play was widely banned, most notably in London and Boston.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (2), Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Patrick Marber (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The action of the play takes place in London over a four-and-a-half-year period, during which two contemporary couples repeatedly arrange themselves into varying romantic configurations. The situations they encounter are frankly sexual and totally adult in nature. The words they speak are alternately biting, caressing, and stinging. Given all of that, Closer is still not a vulgar or cheap play. The playwright was striving to see how much anger and fury could be shoved into a formal, even classic framework. (It is fascinating how much the form resembles that of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.)

ANALYSIS: Mike Nichols adapted Closer for the big screen in 2004, and the movie was rated R for strong language and sexual situations. Many actors in professional-level workshop will love to work on this material precisely because it cuts so deeply and requires mutual trust. There is no physical nudity involved, but there is plenty of “emotional nudity.” I recommend this play for experienced adult actors only.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (6), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Tina Howe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set in an upscale beach community on Massachusetts’s North Shore during the last two weeks of August. Leo and Holly are both rebounding from troubled relationships when they encounter one another.

ANALYSIS: A light treatment of contemporary relationships. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by George C. Wolfe (Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: The play’s theatrical device is a museum tour of eleven exhibits that come to life, forcing black stereotypes into the light.

ANALYSIS: The play’s inventive milieu presents an excellent opportunity for flashy monologues. The entire cast is African-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (2)


by William Hauptman (revised edition, Comanche Café and Domino Courts; Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set in a café in southern Oklahoma during the late 1930s, where Mattie has been a waitress for fourteen years and Ronnie is a newcomer. They sit and peel potatoes, talking about life, love, and leaving Oklahoma.

ANALYSIS: This short play captures the rural southwestern flavor; the language is poetic. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by William Inge (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Lola and Doc have endured a marriage of convenience for twenty years, and both are fixated on their lost youth. Doc’s alcoholism has nearly ruined the union and has brought them close to poverty. Sober now and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for almost a year, Doc thinks that things are looking up until he discovers that the couple’s boarder, a seemingly innocent young woman, is sleeping with her casual boyfriend. This kind of promiscuity throws Doc into a philosophical tailspin, and he goes on a bender. Lola, for reasons of her own, is also disillusioned to learn that the woman is sleeping around. When Doc dries out, both he and Lola move toward the future with diminished expectations about the prospects for goodness and purity in the world. Little Sheba, by the way, is a puppy Lola used to own that disappeared one day, never to grow old. She wishes it could come back, just as she longs for her youth to be restored.

ANALYSIS: William Inge’s first play, Come Back, Little Sheba was stylistically influenced by his mentor, Tennessee Williams, and is full of symbols. First performed in 1950, the drama feels dated now but still packs a punch for workshop scenework. Shirley Booth won a Tony for her stage performance as Lola and an Oscar in 1952 for the same film role. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Ed Graczyk (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The “Disciples of James Dean” reunite in a tiny, drought-afflicted west Texas town on the twentieth anniversary of the actor’s death. They drink, party, and reminisce about how it was to be teenagers in 1955 when Giantwas filming in nearby Marfa, and many of the locals were extras. Then Joanne arrives, a mysterious woman whom the other women soon discover is former Disciples-member Joe; she underwent a sex-change operation. Joe/Joanne’s brutally honest perspective leads to some serious truth-telling among the old gang members. Sissy discloses that she lost her man after she had a mastectomy. Mona admits that James Dean did not father her son after all, and Juanita faces the probability that her late husband was a lecherous alcoholic.

ANALYSIS: A wonderfully theatrical play, jumping back and forth in time between 1955 and 1975 as well as in and out of reality. The work is full of poetry, humor, and magic. For sophisticated actors of all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by John Ford Noonan (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The women are unlikely friends: Maude is a reserved lady from Westchester County, New York, and Hannah Mae is a newly arrived, gregarious Texan. Their relationship is oddly strengthened when Maude impulsively makes love with Hanna Mae’s husband, Carl Joe. Overcome with guilt, Maude confesses the act to Hannah Mae, who, instead of reacting with anger, contends that they are closer now—and anyway, who could resist a hunk like Carl Joe? Subsequently, Maude confides in her new friend, telling about her troubled marriage to Tyler, who is at that very moment out of town on a romantic fling with his secretary. The women unite to set their respective husbands straight.

ANALYSIS: Very funny two-character comedy, even if a truck could fit through the holes in the plot. Wonderful comedy material. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Jeffrey Sweet with Stephen Johnson and Sandra Hastie (25 Ten-Minute Plays from the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Here’s a three-person scene for you. Marty wants Frank to lie and tell his lady friend, Diane, that the two of them were together last night, but the truth is that Marty had a date. Frank doesn’t want to lie, but when Diane enters and brings up the issue, he finds the false words coming out of his mouth. Diane sees right through the lie but doesn’t challenge the men’s story.

ANALYSIS: This entire play is only ten minutes long, but the variety of exchanges to be found within it make it interesting for scenework.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Beth Henley (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: A glimpse into the lives of the very eccentric Magrath sisters, Babe, Meg, and Lenny, of Hazlehurst, Mississippi. They rediscover the value of family ties when Babe, the youngest, shoots Zachary, her abusive husband and a prominent local attorney, and faces the prospect of a jail sentence.

ANALYSIS: This pitch-black Southern-Gothic comedy, a 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner, was first produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and later on Broadway. It was made into a successful 1986 movie starring Tess Harper, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Susan Sandler (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Isabelle is an independent, young Jewish woman who, when she isn’t working in a bookstore, spends time with her elderly, spunky grandmother on New York’s Lower East Side. Bubbie, as the grandmother is known, is a lady with one foot still in the old country. She is concerned about Isabelle still being single and arranges for a matchmaker to cook up a romance. The matchmaker then introduces Isabelle to Sam, a sensitive fellow who works as a pickle-maker. Isabelle, however, has her sights set on a romantic, handsome novelist who frequents the bookstore. As the plot unfolds, she discovers that the novelist is a shallow cad and that Sam has some wonderful virtues, so their match turns out to be a good one after all.

ANALYSIS: Delightful comedy that capitalizes on generational and cultural differences. The play was successfully adapted for the screen in 1988, starring Amy Irving. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Set amid the Salem witch trials in the late seventeenth century, the story involves John Proctor, a man suffering from guilt because he committed adultery with young Abigail Williams. When Abigail and a group of her friends claim to be affected by the devil and accuse various citizens of being witches, Proctor knows she is lying but is afraid to speak up for fear his sin will be disclosed. He tries to ignore the ongoing trials; however, this becomes impossible when his own wife, Elizabeth, is accused of being a witch. Finally, Proctor steps forward and, when he does, is himself accused of being a witch. To save his own life, he shamefully signs a false confession, but when pressed to reveal the names of others who might be witches, he refuses and is led to his death in the gallows.

ANALYSIS: This 1953 drama strongly parallels the struggles against McCarthyism in the United States. It ran for 197 performances on Broadway in 1953 and for more than 500 performances in a later off-Broadway revival. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by David Henry Hwang (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: In 1867, Chinese laborers working on the American transcontinental railroad launched an unsuccessful strike against their employers. During the strike, two of the men get to know each other in a nearby mountaintop clearing when Ma discovers Lone practicing his dance steps. It turns out that Lone is a trained opera dancer whose parents abruptly took him out of opera school two years ago, sending him to America to get rich. Ma asks to be trained, too, so that he can play the grand role of Gwan Gung, the god of Fighters and the god of Adventurers, in an opera. Lone tests Ma’s dedication, leaving him to crouch and imitate a locust overnight. When the strike ends the next morning, Ma has successfully proved that he has the fortitude to learn, but he no longer wants to dance. He wants to get rich in America.

ANALYSIS: David Henry Hwang (the author of M. Butterfly) tests elements of Chinese myth against American culture. In this 1981 one-act play, he attacks the image of the passive and subservient “coolie” laborer. All the characters are Asian-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by John Patrick Shanley (Dramatists Play Service) (13 by Shanley, Applause Books)

SYNOPSIS: Danny and Roberta are violent, battered people. They meet in a Bronx bar and, despite their tough and defensive facades, are drawn to each other. They spend the night together and before dawn, Danny proposes marriage, an act of kindness and hope that neither seems able to accept or tolerate. Finally, their emotional barriers fall, and they face the future together.

ANALYSIS: John Patrick Shanley’s insightful, poetic, sensitive characterizations shine a bright light on the heavy toll that childhood abuse and neglect can take. Challenging material for actors of all levels, at times funny, ultimately very moving. Shanley is best known for writing the delightful 1987 film Moonstruck.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by William Inge (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The year is 1920, and Cora’s friends are getting rich in this oil-soaked Oklahoma town. She longs to climb the social ladder with them, but her husband, Rubin, a simple man and harness salesman by trade, doesn’t share the gambling inclinations of the oil drillers. They continually fight about money, and everything comes to a head over the issue of a new party dress for their shy daughter, Reenie, who has been invited to a fancy country-club party. Rubin storms out of the house in frustration, perhaps never to return.

The party turns out to be a disaster, ending in the suicide of Reenie’s blind date, a Jewish boy from Hollywood. Cora then asks her sister, Lottie, if she and the children can come live with her and her husband in Oklahoma City. Lottie refuses, saying that her home isn’t a happy one either, so the arrangement won’t work out. Rubin returns, makes amends with the family and, in a touching speech, explains his frustrations as a man. The family moves forward with greater love and resolve, seemingly more in touch with the values that truly matter.

ANALYSIS: This 1957 drama is dedicated to Tennessee Williams, and his influence is evident throughout the play. Reenie, for example, is very reminiscent of Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Beautifully written, if perhaps a little too neat at the end. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Peter Nichols (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Ten-year-old Josephine is spastic, given to frequent seizures, completely dependent on her parents for every imaginable human need, and unable to speak or walk. Her presence in the family has skewed Sheila and Bri’s marriage to the point of breaking. Sheila believes that hope springs eternal, and there is always a remote chance that Josephine will still develop normally. Bri, however, has no hope at all. He considers his daughter to be essentially without life and has resorted to black humor to deal with the situation. The playwright employs a theatrical device where Bri and Sheila relive the events of the child’s birth and early years, play-acting various characters in their lives, such as a doctor and priest.

ANALYSIS: A very disturbing, sometimes funny two-act drama. Albert Finney starred as Bri during its 1968 Broadway run. Scenework is possible but difficult because of the fast-moving, almost cabaret-style presentation. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by J. P. Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Joe and Kristen are alcoholics in denial. They marry quickly, have a daughter, and then continue a slow and boozy decline into poverty. Finally, Joe admits his sickness and joins Alcoholics Anonymous. Kristen, however, stays in denial and at the final curtain, the audience realizes that she’ll be doomed unless she comes to terms with the truth.

ANALYSIS: Originally a 1958 Playhouse 90 television production, this drama went on to Broadway and ultimately to film, where Jack Lemmon stopped the clocks with his portrayal of Joe. The dialogue rings true. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Ariel Dorfman (Death and the Maiden; tie-in edition, Penguin)

SYNOPSIS: Paulina was held in captivity, blindfolded, and brutally tortured by a “doctor” during the reign of a now-collapsed South American military dictatorship. This horror is reborn when her husband, Gerardo, innocently brings home a man who gave him a lift on the road. Recognizing the man’s voice as that of her torturer, Paulina takes him prisoner, demanding his confession and repentance. Gerardo, convinced that she is serious about killing the man if he doesn’t confess, goes along with her. Although her prisoner passionately denies that he is the torturer, Paulina tricks him into disclosing the truth. The title, by the way, refers to a Schubert quartet that was played during the torture sessions.

ANALYSIS: Intelligent and topical. The Broadway cast included Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfus, and Gene Hackman. Even though the characters have Hispanic names, all roles can be played by non-Hispanics. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman, realizes that he is getting too old to be on the road so much. He curtails an unfinished trip through New England and abruptly returns to his Brooklyn home. There he locks horns with his visiting eldest son, Biff, who disagrees with him about which life choices lead to “success.” Willy has bought heavily into the American dream, but Biff doesn’t believe that working your way up the financial ladder is particularly worthwhile. This conflict, which profoundly changes the relationship between them, is the central issue in the play. Willy is forced to take stock of himself and realizes that he has, indeed, lived his life on false premises. Depressed, he commits suicide in a car crash in order to collect insurance money for the final payment on his home, a home that is a necessary component of the American dream.

ANALYSIS: Arthur Miller’s great modern tragedy won the Pulitzer Prize in 1949. As he does in All My Sons, he explores a man’s basic values. Lee J. Cobb was only thirty-seven years old in 1949 when he created the role of Willy on Broadway, and Dustin Hoffman was in his forties when he later starred in a revival. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Edward Albee (The Sandbox and The Death of Bessie Smith, Plume Books)

SYNOPSIS: Two whites-only hospitals near Memphis refuse to treat Bessie Smith, the great blues singer, when she is brought in after a car wreck in 1937. In eight fast-moving scenes, Albee exposes the circumstances and underlying racism of the tragic event.

ANALYSIS: Albee based this 1959 drama on what he thought at the time was the actual story of Bessie Smith’s death. It turned out later that she was, in fact, not refused admission to the white hospital. After her car wreck, she was taken directly to a blacks-only hospital and died en route in the ambulance. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Edward Albee (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Agnes and Tobias live a highly ordered existence in the spacious suburban home they share with Agnes’s sister, Claire. But this isn’t a happy domestic scene by any means, for this is a family in strong denial. These are the kind of people who have a civilized drink before breakfast and bury their true emotions in intellectual repartee. One night, longtime friends Harry and Edna arrive, bags in hand. They want to sleep over because they are afraid of some nameless thing, perhaps the darkness of their own home and lives. Harry and Edna retreat into an upstairs bedroom and, days later, announce that they intend to move permanently out of their own place and to live here full time.

Julie (Agnes and Tobias’s daughter) arrives home a short time later, licking her wounds from the demise of her fourth marriage. She is pushed to the edge of hysteria and violence by the presence of the strangers who are now residing in her old bedroom. Harry and Edna eventually recognize they aren’t welcome and, with deflated spirits, depart.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this psychologically dense, mysterious adult drama ran on Broadway in 1967 and again in 1996. Best for experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Donald Margulies (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Karen and Gabe, international food writers, are best friends with Beth and Tom. In fact they introduced them to one another twelve years ago, and they have a summer time-share with them on Martha’s Vineyard. Each couple has two kids. The families are, in every sense, intertwined. Therefore, when Beth tells Karen and Gabe that Tom is leaving her for another woman, the news plays havoc with the relationships. It leads to a reevaluation of what marriage and commitment mean, what friendship means, and what it means to lose sexual energy as you get older.

ANALYSIS: Dinner With Friends won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000 and is simply a marvelous play. Donald Margulies has a keen understanding of the nuances in a marriage, and the dialogue rings true virtually one hundred percent of the time. Be warned, however: A play that is this well written is also a trap for actors. It is a great temptation to rely too much on the words and, of course, acting has to do with much more than words. I recall seeing a production of Dinner With Friends at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre that was flat for precisely this reason. The actors did not do the work.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Steve Tesich (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Chris Adrian, a Tom Hayden-like former leader of the 1960s radical movement, resurfaces in Chicago in the early 1980s—working as an insurance salesman. After his picture unexpectedly appears in the newspapers, fellow former-radicals converge on his apartment, imploring him to lead a new revolution. But to their surprise, Chris has gone straight and is no longer interested in the great issues of the 1960s. Finally, everyone agrees to get back in touch with the honorable principles that led to the earlier attempt at revolution.

ANALYSIS: Madcap and farcical, this 1980 comedy ran on Broadway for only twenty-one performances. It is full of mistaken identities, pratfalls, disguises, sex changes, and characters with strange international accents. A great deal of fun for actors who can ride this wave. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Don Petersen (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set “in a rehabilitation center for juvenile narcotic addicts located on an island in a river bordering a large industrial city.” There is no single plotline, but there are several good scenes and monologues. The work consists of character exploration as incarcerated young people from life’s underbelly try to find their way.

ANALYSIS: Al Pacino won a Tony Award in 1969 for creating the role of Bickham. Gritty dialogue and situations, very primal at times. Best for sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Henrik Ibsen (adapted by Frank McGuinness, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Nora Helmer forged her father’s name to a loan document to get money to pay for her husband, Torvald’s, recuperation from a serious illness. She has been secretly repaying the debt out of her meager household allowance for several years. And now that her husband is healthy again and has been promoted to the prestigious position of bank manager, it appears that life is taking a positive turn.

Suddenly, however, on Christmas Eve, Nora finds herself being blackmailed with the old forgery by an unscrupulous and desperate bank employee who is afraid of losing his job when Torvald becomes manager. Torvald discovers Nora’s forgery anyway and, rather than protecting his wife, reacts by turning against her, damning her for jeopardizing his job. She concludes that she has been nothing more than a possession—a “doll”—to her husband for all of their eight-year marriage. So at the final curtain, Nora walks out on him and her children, determined to become a self-reliant person.

ANALYSIS: Nora’s departure from her family was shocking and outrageous when A Doll’s House was first staged in 1879. The play was written against a political background of almost zero women’s rights. This particular adaptation by Frank McGuinness is excellent.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (5)


by John Patrick Shanley (Theatre Communications Group)

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in 1964, the year after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The place is St. Nicholas, a Catholic church and school in the Bronx. Sister Aloysius Beauvier is a rigid, rule-driven school principal who convinces herself, on pathetically weak circumstantial evidence, that Father Flynn, the parish priest, has sexually molested one of the young students. Her goal is to ruin him, to bring him down, and, in the end, she succeeds. Along the way to her goal, however, she causes great pain to all parties involved. The boy she suspects of being molested is deprived of the priest’s companionship, which he badly needs at this point in his life. Also, the boy’s teacher, Sister James, is caught up in a struggle of values because she is convinced Father Flynn is innocent while at the same time aware that Sister Aloysius is her superior.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this is a superb play that is chock-full of good scenes to work on. Be sure to read the author’s preface to the play. He explains in detail what he is trying to accomplish with the work. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (2), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Anton Chekhov (The Sneeze: Plays and Stories by Anton Chekhov, translated and adapted by Michael Frayn, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Pavel Vasilevich, a well-known writer, is working at home when an admirer with literary ambitions shows up to get feedback on the drama she has written. Although he agrees to take a look at it if she’ll leave it with him, she begins to read it to him right away. Pavel tries diplomatically to stop the reading, but the woman seems oblivious to his growing discomfiture. She goes on and on and, to be truthful, her writing is awful. Finally, when all else fails, he takes out a knife and kills her.

ANALYSIS: Extremely funny eight-page play. Michael Frayn’s adaptation is marvelous. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Elmer Rice (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Aspiring novelist Georgina Allerton is a daydreamer living a mundane life, finding spice only in her very active fantasies. She confronts this fact about herself when her secret love, her very married brother-in-law, decides to get a divorce and suggests they get together. Finally given the opportunity to act on her fantasy, however, Georgina retreats. Clark Redfield, a hardboiled realist and newspaperman, then enters her life. Although there is chemistry between them, she feels threatened when he accuses her of preferring fantasy to reality. Eventually, however, Georgina falls in love with Clark and, at the play’s end, they marry.

ANALYSIS: This 1945 play is the epitome of innocence. Stylistically dated, but still good scene-study material. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Ronald Harwood (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Sir is an aging actor-manager whose showcase role is King Lear. He travels the English provinces with his entourage, portraying that character and others. The Dresser focuses on his final performance, set in war-torn England in 1942, and explores the relationships Sir has formed over the years with his dresser, Norman; the woman he lives with; and others in the ragtag company.

ANALYSIS: A lovely ode to the theater, a valentine to a lifestyle now regretfully long gone, Sir is a role to be cherished. To do it justice, however, an actor needs to have some seasoning, insight, and technical power. Albert Finney played Sir to Tom Courtenay’s Norman in the marvelous 1983 movie. Written in the British vernacular.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (4)


by Tom Kempinski (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: World-famous violinist Stephanie Abrahams finds her career abruptly halted at the premature age of thirty-three when she is afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Losing the skill that literally defines her life, along with her marriage, she becomes suicidal. Seven months after the diagnosis, Stephanie begins psychotherapy. Duet for One is a session-by-session diary of her progress. The early denial of her pain turns into hostility, then fury, and finally, acceptance.

ANALYSIS: Very intense material. Stephanie is in a wheelchair for almost the entire play. Anne Bancroft and Max Von Sydow starred in the 1981 production on Broadway.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Sidney Michaels (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Based on Dylan Thomas in America by John Malcolm Brinnin and Leftover Life to Kill by Caitlin Thomas, Dylan tracks the famous Welsh poet’s final American lecture tours, ending with his death at thirty-eight in the White Horse Tavern in New York’s Greenwich Village. Journalistic in style, hopping back and forth across the Atlantic and all around the United States on a bare stage, this is very effective theater. Dylan speaks with a Welsh accent, while Caitlin has an Irish accent.

ANALYSIS: This is the kind of material that, if done well, can be theatrical magic. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This later version of Summer and Smoke features a much more aggressive and high-strung Alma, and John isn’t so obviously a hell-raiser. It also has fewer characters and more focused scenes. Furthermore, Alma actually goes to bed with John on New Year’s Eve in a hotel room that is rented by the hour. In the end, however, she still winds up alone, although this version doesn’t mention John and Nellie’s marriage. The final moments are exactly the same: Alma picks up a traveling salesman at the fountain.

ANALYSIS: Although Summer and Smoke is the better-known work, Tennessee Williams preferred this later version. The scenes are more pointed, the conflict more overt, and Alma is a little closer to the edge. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (6), Female Monologues (4)


by N. Richard Nash (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Sam, a high-school history teacher, and Tilda, occupation unknown, share a room in a mental institution. They spend most of their time in a safe, pretend world, excluding the doctors and all the threatening realities they bring with them. Sam, however, is getting better and, as he begins shifting toward lucidity—and away from Tilda—she panics, trying desperately to keep him bound to their pretend world. At the final curtain, he moves into the next room so he can see his wife and three-year-old son, while Tilda is left alone with her fantasies.

ANALYSIS: N. Richard Nash is best known as the author of the play The Rainmaker. I like this play, Echoes, for scenework because the actors have to construct a credible pretend reality. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (6), Female Monologues (2)


by Willy Russell (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Like Pygmalion, this comedy features an educated but burnt-out literature professor who takes an uneducated but young, spunky, lower-class woman under his wing. Rita excels, perhaps outdistancing Frank in understanding the deeper implications of the assigned material. During the year covered by the play, her shallow husband kicks Rita out because she is trying to better herself, and Frank drifts into and out of a merely comfortable relationship. At the final curtain, it looks like Frank and Rita might get together, now that she is educated.

ANALYSIS: A lovely 1981 two-character, two-act romantic comedy that was the basis for a 1986 movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Written in the British vernacular, the respective difference between Frank and Rita’s upper-and-lower-class accents is important. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Paul Zindel (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Tillie is an emotionally isolated teenager who is consumed with love for science. She finds a kind of symmetry and beauty in the study of atoms that is missing from her dysfunctional home life. When she becomes a finalist in her school’s science fair, the play turns into a family drama in which her alcoholic mother and seizure-prone older sister ruin any possible honors.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize, this haunting and beautifully written drama is chock-full of metaphors. The colorful role of Tillie’s alcoholic mother was created on stage by Sada Thompson and later played by Joanne Woodward in the movie version. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (3)


by Ruth Wolff (Broadway Play Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: The story of the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi (1835-1908) and her rise to power in China. Starting as the Emperor’s concubine, she ultimately ruled the country for fifty years, keeping the tentacles of Western civilization at bay.

ANALYSIS: Ruth Wolff specializes in dramas with strong, central female characters. All characters are of course Asian. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (2)


by Arthur Kopit (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A mysterious, wealthy industrialist commissions an out-of-work playwright to write a play based on the premise that the world is going to end because of nuclear proliferation. As the playwright researches the topic, interviewing generals and war experts, he is shocked to learn that nuclear proliferation is, in the final analysis, like a giant M. C. Escher drawing and makes no sense.

ANALYSIS: This 1984 comedy, directed on Broadway by Hal Prince, was written by the prolific and talented Arthur Kopit. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Henrik Ibsen (adapted by Arthur Miller, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: A small Norwegian city seeks financial salvation through the development and promotion of a health spa. Everything moves forward happily until Dr. Thomas Stockmann discovers that the local water is polluted. It is filled with disease-causing bacteria that are washing downstream from a tannery, which, ironically, his father-in-law owns. When it becomes clear that Stockmann intends to publicize the danger, the local power elite, including his brother the mayor, conspire to ostracize and discredit him, officially labeling him an “enemy of the people.” Stockmann stands on principle, even though this translates into personal financial ruin and hard times for his family. Despite local hostility, he remains true to his sense of what is right.

ANALYSIS: Henrik Ibsen’s most militant play, reportedly based on an actual 1830 incident. Arthur Miller’s adaptation is marvelous. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Joseph Stein (adapted from Carl Reiner’s novel, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This play is set in New York City during the 1930s. David Kolowitz is a “nice Jewish boy” with a predictable future as a pharmacist, who has a sweet, simple local girlfriend named Wanda. When David sees an ad for the Marlowe Theatre and School for Dramatic Arts, he thinks that he is better suited for the glamorous life of an actor. The Marlowe school turns out to be a seedy nickel-and-dime operation, the kind of place where an aspiring actor’s wallet is more important than his talent. The owner’s jaded daughter is the company ingenue. David, who has almost zero talent, is cast opposite the ingenue and has an important (to him) kissing scene. Opening night is almost a disaster but, wonderful or not, David is happy to have made his theatrical debut. Although his parents think he is making a big mistake if he doesn’t go to pharmacy school, Wanda believes he is doing the right thing.

ANALYSIS: Joseph Stein is best known as the author of Fiddler on the Roof. He has a wonderful feel for physical comedy, and this play is a total delight. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Peter Shaffer (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Martin Dysart, a doctor at the Rokesby Psychiatric Hospital in southern England, accepts seventeen-year-old Alan Strang as a patient. Alan has blinded six horses with a metal spike, and the court has ordered him to be treated at the hospital rather than being sent to prison. Dysart and Strang spar like two gladiators in a ring but, in the end, come to respect each other as the young man’s complex motives are understood. In the process of working with Alan, Dysart questions his own values.

ANALYSIS: Extraordinarily intelligent script dealing with religion, sexuality, and guilt. Much of the play’s power, however, derived from the original, highly theatrical staging by John Dexter.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Edward Albee (adapted from the play by Giles Cooper, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Richard is outraged to learn that his wife has started earning money by working as a high-priced prostitute, and he threatens to throw her out. On the other hand, they are living beyond their means in an upscale neighborhood, and they could use the money she’s making. To complicate matters, several other wives from the country-club set are also working as prostitutes, but their husbands like the money and condone the practice. Then the wealthy man next door is accidentally killed after he discovers the neighborhood secret. The husbands get together and bury him in the backyard. At the final curtain, the women decide to continue hooking, and their very charismatic madam, Mrs. Toothe, sets up shop in the neighborhood.

ANALYSIS: This strange 1968 drama contains some excellent, well-written scenes for actors in workshop. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Anton Chekhov (The Sneeze: Plays and Stories by Anton Chekhov, translated and adapted by Michael Frayn, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Nyukhin is the father of seven unmarried daughters and the henpecked husband of a domineering woman who owns and operates a school for girls. In this fifteen-minute monologue, he addresses an assembly of female students on the evils of tobacco. Nyukhin does not, however, really make his points because he gets lost in relating incidental details of his personal life. Toward the end of the speech, he returns to the subject at hand when he hears his wife approaching.

ANALYSIS: A one-act comedy with a poignant edge. The more Nyukhin talks, the more the audience realizes how he has wasted his life. Anton Chekhov initially considered this monologue to be inconsequential, but over the years he revised it many times, which explains its richness. For experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1)


by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The Exonerated is nonfiction drawn from interviews with former death-row convicts. What they all have in common is that they were first sentenced to death and, before the sentence could be carried out, were discovered to be innocent after all. The point of the whole enterprise of course is that the United States judicial system, particularly as it is applied to the death penalty, is highly imperfect. And just how much margin of error should a country allow when the punishment is the taking of life itself?

ANALYSIS: As compelling as these stories are, I don’t think many of them are good for audition purposes. The problem is that they are informative, even dispassionate, a sort of declamatory history remembered. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1)


by William Mastrosimone (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Marjorie is alone in her house when Raul appears, supposedly looking for “Joe.” Quickly, he becomes menacing and tries to rape her. She sprays insecticide in his face, blinding him, and then ties him up with extension cords and shoves him into the fireplace. By the time Marjorie’s roommates return, Raul appears to be the victim, not the criminal. Marjorie is wild-eyed and bent on revenge. After an extended psychological game of cat and mouse in which Raul cleverly turns the women against each other, he agrees to confess his crime to the police. Satisfied that he won’t walk away free, Marjorie turns him over to the legal system.

ANALYSIS: William Mastrosimone was motivated to write Extremities after developing a friendship with a rape victim who lived in constant terror that her rapist would return. He decided to create a scenario that gives the victim the opportunity for revenge. But is Marjorie’s desire to hurt the man evil in itself? As the playwright asks in the afterword to the acting-edition of the play, “How does one deal with evil without becoming evil oneself?” Physically violent and erotic material, appropriate for mature actors of all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Noel Coward (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Jane and Julia, friends since childhood, were involved romantically with the same handsome Frenchman before their respective marriages. Now, five years later, their marriages have become merely comfortable; they love their husbands, but there is no spark. Suddenly, the Frenchman arrives in town, throwing both women into a frenzy of romantic anticipation and guilt. In the end, the two couples stay married, but the former lover moves into a flat upstairs, so the audience suspects that the juiciest moments are yet to come.

ANALYSIS: Another vintage piece of fluff from playwright Noel Coward. The plot is ridiculously improbable, but he milks it for all it is worth. Appropriate for all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Henry Denker (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A dramatization of one of Freud’s breakthrough cases, detailing the treatment of an attractive young woman, Elizabeth von Ritter, who is plagued by phantom leg pain. With Freud’s encouragement, she puts the pieces together in her memory and…voilà!…she can walk again!

ANALYSIS: This material is a great deal of fun for scenework. Actors who like to pull out all the stops will love it. The great Kim Stanley played von Ritter in the 1961 production. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Oliver Hailey (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: It’s Father’s Day, so the women in a New York City co-op apartment building are having a get-together while their ex-husbands take the children for the day. Because the play is character-driven rather than plot-driven, the audience learns in Act I about each of the women. They discuss, for example, how they came to marry the way they did, what they think of motherhood and sex, and why they’re divorced. In Act II, when the ex-husbands join them on the patio, the audience discovers that, in most cases, the women and men have illusions about one another. Richard, for example, is actually bisexual, but Marian doesn’t have a clue. She thinks he is promiscuous with other women. The major event in the play is the custody battle between Louise and Tom. Their seven-year-old son has chosen to live with his father, and Louise is trying to cope.

ANALYSIS: Biting, intelligent, sophisticated comedy/drama. Good scenes. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by August Wilson (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Troy Maxson, the son of a sharecropper, is a powerful, sometimes violent man who understands the virtues of hard work and the value of an education. Here, in Pennsylvania in 1957, he has a home, a good woman, a grown son from a former marriage, and a teenage son from this union. Fences covers the years 1957 through 1965, ending with Troy’s death. During this time, the audience sees him involved in a standoff with his young son, father a son by another woman, get promoted from garbage collector to garbage-truck driver, and have his simple-minded brother jailed. Troy also finishes putting up a fence around the house, more to keep people in than to keep people out.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, Fences is a major achievement. The role of Troy Maxson, tailor-made for James Earl Jones, is on a par with that of Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman. The entire cast is African-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (2)


by Leslie Lee (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Gremmar is in her mid-seventies when the audience first meets her, and already her cough and dizzy spells signal that she won’t live too much longer. As her children and grandchildren sort out their lives in the present day, Gremmar’s story is told in flashback sequences. The audience meets the three men, two black and one white, with whom she had children and finds out why she never married any of them. When Louis, the grandson who dotes on Gremmar the most, learns that the father of his Aunt Edna was a white man, he flies into a rage, embarrassed by what he perceives to be Gremmar’s wild sexual past and lack of racial pride. Before she actually gets an opportunity to respond to Louis’s rage, however, she is gone.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the Obie for Best Off-Broadway Play in 1975 and later a Tony Award nominee. This is a wise and outstanding drama, well written, and excellent for scenework. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (6), Male Monologues (1)


by David Henry Hwang (FOB and The House of Sleeping Beauties: Two Plays, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: FOB (an abbreviation for “Fresh Off the Boat,” a derogatory term for a newly arrived Chinese person) is set in the back room of a Chinese restaurant in Torrance, California. Grace, a college journalism student, is a first-generation Chinese American. Her cousin Dale is an American of Chinese descent, second generation. Steve is a Chinese newcomer, a man who mysteriously appears and claims to be Gwan Gung, the Chinese god of warriors, writers, and prostitutes. To Dale, this new fellow is a grinning, pidgin-speaking stereotype of everything Asian-Americans have tried to outgrow; to Grace, who is initially skeptical, Steve becomes part of a Promethean struggle against the loss of divinity.

ANALYSIS: David Henry Hwang, author of M. Butterfly, wrote FOB while an undergraduate student at Stanford University during the late 1970s. The play is stylistically innovative, blending mythic and contemporary characters, as well as elements of Chinese opera and kitchen-sink drama. FOB won the 1981 Obie for Best Play after running at New York’s Public Theatre. The entire cast is Asian-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Sam Shepard (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: May is Eddie’s half sister, but they’ve been romantically involved for fifteen years, living in a trailer in some unnamed place out west. She may have been pregnant at one time, but this isn’t clear. Eddie disappears now and then, and the last time he went, May hit the road herself, landing in a motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Eddie finds her and wants to take her back but, when he arrives, she is dressing to go out on a date with a local fellow she met. After a while, Martin, her date, arrives and he and Eddie have something of a standoff. Then a mysterious woman in a black Mercedes, perhaps a countess Eddie has been dating, firebombs Eddie’s truck and horse trailer in the parking lot outside the motel. When Eddie goes out to confront her, May starts packing her suitcase to move on, telling Martin that Eddie isn’t coming back.

ANALYSIS: Actors love to work on Sam Shepard’s plays because the characters are so bold. Even though the action is set in modern America, the characters have about them the air of the Old West. Very primal. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Allan Miller (based on D. H. Lawrence’s short novel, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The year is 1918. Jill and Nellie purchased the old Bailey Farm and moved there three years ago intending “to live our own lives, without having to strut about to other people’s ideas and demands.” It has been hard going, however, and the women’s experiment is about to end when a young soldier appears unexpectedly at the door. Jill and Nellie invite him to stay for a few days, and he immediately begins to charm and dominate them. Nellie is smitten when he proposes marriage to her the next day. Alarmed by this sudden threat to her relationship with Nellie, Jill tries to force him out and to talk Nellie out of marriage. She finally convinces Nellie that he wants only the farm and a couple of women to take care of him. Henry, recognizing that Jill has become his enemy, kills her. At the final curtain, the audience knows that he’ll have his way with Nellie, and that Jill was correct about his true purpose.

ANALYSIS: A big question left unanswered in the script is whether or not the women are lovers. It works much better if you come down on the “yes” side. Written in the British vernacular, but can be transposed into American English. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Terrence McNally (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: All of the action takes place in Frankie’s Tenth Avenue apartment in New York City between 3 A.M. and dawn. She and Johnny, her co-worker at a greasy-spoon restaurant, have made love for the first time, and Frankie is ready for him to put on his clothes and go home. He, on the other hand, has fallen in love. Frankie can handle the sex, but she isn’t up for true intimacy because she has been burned before. Their emotionally defensive dating dance nonetheless becomes more intimate. By sunrise, he still has not departed and we know that they will stay together.

ANALYSIS: Terrence McNally is one of our finest playwrights. The dialogue here rings true and is often poetic. Marvelous characters. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Jonathan Reynolds (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A Hollywood movie company is shooting a major motion picture entitled Parabola of Death (read Apocalypse Now) in the Philippines. The hotshot young director is woefully behind schedule because of monsoons, the necessity of coordinating a cast of thousands, an incomplete script, and a Playmate of the Year with the runs.

ANALYSIS: Fun parody of big-time, over-budget moviemaking. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Marsha Norman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: After spending most of her young life in jail, Arlene is getting out. But this isn’t going to be easy. Her former pimp appears and tells her how much she can make on the streets of New York; a former guard at the prison is hanging around, trying to make time with her; and her mother has no use for her. All Arlene wants is to stay out of jail and somehow get it together so that she can bring her child to live with her. The child was taken away at birth by prison officials and given up for adoption.

ANALYSIS: The playwright utilizes a theatrical device in which two actresses play Arlene at different ages. The younger, more confrontational one moves into and out of the action. For scene-study purposes, simply eliminate her. Tough, uneducated, streetwise characters populate this challenging play. Best for experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Evy arrives home after ten weeks of drying out in a Long Island sanitarium. Her daughter, Polly, moves in with her, and best friends Jimmy and Toby are protective, hovering. Sobriety doesn’t last long, however, as Evy quickly falls off the wagon directly into a reprise of an abusive relationship with Lou Tanner. At the final curtain, she resolves to try again—and harder—to get sober.

ANALYSIS: Neil Simon is at his best when he tackles tough subjects like this one. The dialogue and characters are sharply focused, often funny. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (2)


by Alfred Hayes (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Rome in late 1944 is a war-ravaged city with few economic opportunities for anybody. Many Italian women, therefore, allow themselves to be “kept” by American soldiers that are occupying the country, even though such arrangements are a source of shame. Lisa agrees to be “married” to Robert, and the truth is that they might have been a good match under different circumstances. Before long, however, their sham marriage is exposed. Lisa is officially designated a prostitute and given a yellow government ID card so that she can work the streets.

ANALYSIS: This 1954 drama holds up very well, and the scenes are excellent, full of deep emotion and conflict. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set in the Depression era during the 1930s in the Wingfields’ modest St. Louis apartment. The central event in this classic American drama concerns Amanda’s attempts to find a gentleman caller for her crippled and shy daughter, Laura. At Amanda’s urging, her son, Tom, brings Jim O’Connor, a co-worker at the shoe factory, home to dinner, not realizing what elaborate and embarrassing attempts his mother would make to impress the visitor. It turns out that Laura once had a crush on Jim in high school and that he is currently engaged. The evening is a major disappointment to Amanda and leaves Laura even more emotionally withdrawn. Tom leaves home shortly after the events of the play in order to pursue a life as a poet.

ANALYSIS: Tennessee Williams’s great autobiographical “memory” play, the one that brought him to fame in 1945. Williams modeled Tom on himself. Laura, based on his sister, Rose, and Amanda, based on his mother, Edwina, are major female roles. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by David Mamet (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set amid the dog-eat-dog world of unscrupulous Florida real-estate salesmen—the kind of people who sell swampland to unsuspecting buyers. The central event involves Moss and Levene’s theft of leads and contracts from the company office.

ANALYSIS: A stunning character study of salespeople and, ultimately, a comment on free enterprise in America. Rough language. Made into a movie in 1992 starring Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and Al Pacino. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Male Monologues (2)


by Edward Albee (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: It is revealed during Martin’s fiftieth birthday party that he has fallen in love with a goat he has named Sylvia. He tells this surprising news to his longtime friend, Ross, who reacts with repulsion and ultimately sends Martin’s wife, Stevie, a letter filling her in on the secret. Stevie is devastated by the news that her husband is in love with a goat, as is the couple’s gay son, Billy. At the end of the play, Stevie finds the goat and kills it.

ANALYSIS: This play is insanely funny at times but, like all of Albee’s work, it has a dark underbelly. It is not comedy for comedy’s sake. Ultimately, he raises the proposition that none among us can even begin to understand love. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Clifford Odets (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Joe Bonaparte plays the violin brilliantly, and his Italian-American, simple-living widower-father is hoping to see him pursue a career as a musician. But Joe lusts after the fast lane, money, and adventure—and also happens to have talent as a boxer. He enters the fight game, getting mixed up with promoters, hustlers, and their women. At first, Joe pulls his punches in the ring to protect his musician hands, but as he emotionally tilts away from his family and toward the lure of the bright lights and big money, he starts giving his all. He works his way up to an important match during which he kills his opponent.

Overcome with grief at the hardened man he has become, a killer of another man, Joe agrees to give it all up and run off with Lorna Moon, the promoter’s streetwise girlfriend who has slowly but surely fallen in love with him. Joe and Lorna take a ride in his new car to celebrate their decision, get into an accident, and are both killed.

ANALYSIS: Less political than Clifford Odets’s other plays, Golden Boy rests on an unlikely premise and sometimes has corny dialogue. Still, this 1937 drama was the biggest commercial success the famed Group Theatre ever had. The cast was stellar, including Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan, Frances Farmer as Lorna, Luther Adler as Joe, and Karl Malden in a tiny role. Harold Clurman directed.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by David Rabe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A slice of ugly life with a couple of bleak, miserable, lowlife, women-hating, violent, small-time jewel thieves, presented in the spirit of A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner. Buddies Goose and Tomtom are continually trying to prove to one another and the world how tough they are. The action in this two-act play takes place in an underworld apartment the men share with Lorraine, a pretty woman who likes jewels and is impressed with their toughness. After the men’s stash of diamonds is stolen, they resort to kidnapping and murder in their attempts to get the gems back.

ANALYSIS: The 1986 Broadway workshop production was directed by playwright David Rabe and featured Sean Penn, Madonna, and Harvey Keitel. Only experienced actors who have a true taste for experimental drama should attempt this material.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Michael V. Gazzo (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Johnny Pope is fighting drug addiction, a habit acquired when he was recuperating in a military hospital after the Korean War. Borrowing money from his brother, Polo, to support a forty-dollar-a-day habit and keeping his addiction secret from his family, Johnny is sinking deeper and deeper into despair. As Johnny becomes more withdrawn and restless, Celia, his pregnant wife, believes that he must be having an affair. After all, he often disappears at night. Longing for affection, she is drawn to Polo, now living with her and Johnny in their small New York City apartment. Polo is also mightily attracted to Celia, so both of them struggle against their inclinations. By the end of the play, Celia learns the truth about Johnny’s addiction and calls the police to come get him so he can begin a supervised withdrawal.

ANALYSIS: The quintessential Actors Studio drama, developed by Michael V. Gazzo in the mid-1950s at the studio lab in New York. Many scenes grew directly out of improvisation. This gritty social drama was an important early showcase for Shelley Winters, who played Celia, and Ben Gazzara, who played Johnny. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Henrik Ibsen (adapted by Jon Robin Baitz, Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: As the first act begins, Hedda and her new husband, George Tesman, are returning to Norway from a loveless six-month European honeymoon. They move immediately into an impressive new house that they cannot afford unless George were to get an expected promotion. In addition, Hedda is already pregnant (though not showing yet).

Things rapidly begin to unravel for Hedda when Thea Elvsted arrives. She has broken with her husband and is in pursuit of her true love, Eilert Lovborg, who is said to be here in town. Unbeknownst to Thea, however, Eilert is Hedda’s former main squeeze. The very mention of Eilert’s name sends Hedda into a state of anxiety, but she says nothing to Thea about it.

Soon, Eilert arrives at the house, bringing with him the handwritten manuscript of his new book. He immediately begins to declare his feelings for Hedda, but she rebuffs him, telling him she will not cheat on her husband.

Eilert goes with George and Judge Brack to a men’s smoker party, leaving Hedda and Thea alone. The night goes by, and still the men do not return. At dawn George comes in carrying Eilert’s manuscript, which he says the man dropped while in a drunken stupor en route to a whorehouse.

Eventually, Eilert himself arrives and announces that he has torn his manuscript to shreds. Hedda knows this is not true, but she doesn’t tell him that she in fact has the book in her desk drawer. Instead, she gives Eilert a pistol with which to commit suicide.

Eilert leaves, and Hedda burns the manuscript. When George comes in again, he is outraged that she could do such a thing. But it is too late. Soon word comes that Eilert has indeed killed himself.

Judge Brack, a long-time admirer of Hedda, arrives to tell Hedda in private that he knows she gave the pistol to Eilert. His insinuation is that he will tell no one if she will provide him sexual favors. Hedda knows that this man has power over her life and, unable to endure the situation, walks into the next room and shoots herself in the head.

ANALYSIS: Jon Robin Baitz has done a fine job with this translation, which makes a strong statement about feminism.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Wendy Wasserstein (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Beginning in 1965, when Heidi Holland is sixteen, and progressing to 1989, this play follows the evolution of a New Yorker as she chooses a career, searches for the right man, falls in love, falls out of love, sees friends come and go, tries to make sense of the world, and adopts a baby. All of the characters are urbane, witty, and capable.

ANALYSIS: This frequently touching comedy, winner of the 1989 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, also won the New York Drama Critics Prize, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Female Monologues (1)


by Athol Fugard (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After a bitter fifteen-year absence, and having heard that her Afrikaner father is near death, Hester unexpectedly shows up at his lower-class home in Port Elizabeth to claim her share of his meager estate. She discovers that Johnny, her gloomy younger brother, is tending full time to the old man, having given up dreams of a life on his own. The brother won’t let her see their father, explaining that he is sleeping in the other room. Hester digs through family belongings, trying to find the insurance money she contends her father collected when he lost his leg years earlier. She finds no money and, when there are no more boxes to be opened, Johnny admits that their father is in fact already dead and that he knew all along there was no money. Johnny has been comforting himself with the delusion that the old man was still alive in the next room. Not wanting further involvement with her emotionally ruined brother, Hester returns to her life in the big city.

ANALYSIS: Powerful two-character drama. Both characters are Afrikaners, so accents would be appropriate. For experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Female Monologues (1), Male Monologues (1)


by William Saroyan (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A drifter/gambler coming off a two-year run of bad luck picks up a woman in a small Texas town. After they have sex, the woman demands money, which he refuses. She cries rape, and the man is arrested. The entire action of this play takes place inside the jailhouse and revolves around the relationship he forms with the young cook/cleaning girl at the jail. Eventually, a lynch mob arrives and kills him, but not before he has given all his money to the girl and urged her to head for San Francisco.

ANALYSIS: Like all of William Saroyan’s other plays, this fourteen-page one-act drama, written in 1941, is musical and poetic and evokes a sense of loneliness. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Dorothy Parker (24 Favorite One Act Plays, edited by Bennett Cerf and Van H. Cartmell, Doubleday/Main Street Books)

SYNOPSIS: A young couple, married precisely two hours and twenty-six minutes, is en route via a Pullman car to New York City for their honeymoon. The groom is eager to consummate the union, but the bride has a bit of anxiety about the prospect. So they talk about everything except the subject at hand.

ANALYSIS: Innocent, well-written 1931 fun from Dorothy Parker. The play is just ten pages long. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Ted Tally (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Cheryl, a twenty-five-year-old working woman, is entertaining a serious proposal of marriage but isn’t sure she is ready for adulthood. She has brought her girlfriend Ronda to Cape Cod for a weekend of sun and serious girl-talk. As it happens, they meet Clint and Ricky, a couple of wild and crazy nineteen-year-olds with sex on their minds and beer in their hands. To Ronda’s dismay, Cheryl hops into bed with Clint, evidently trying to hide from responsibility by immersing herself in a party scene. When Clint tells Cheryl that he loves her, however, the party abruptly ends. In the end, Cheryl begins to take a serious look at herself. Clint and Ricky, meanwhile, have come to a Waterloo of their own, facing the same questions about adulthood, responsibility, and friendship.

ANALYSIS: On the surface, Hooters is about horny postadolescents on the make. The language is frequently sexist. There is, however, a method to this madness. The immensely talented playwright, Ted Tally, is up to something. He has highlighted and isolated the pursuit of hedonistic pleasures in order to make a deeper point about values. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by John Guare (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Artie’s apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, is full of comic madness on account of the imminent visit of the Pope to New York City. Artie, an untalented but hopeful musician, wants the Pope to bless his music; Bunny Flingus, Artie’s mistress who lives downstairs, wants the Pope to bless her hoped-for marriage to Artie—even though Artie presently has a mentally deficient wife named Bananas. Artie’s maladjusted son, Ronnie, has come home, AWOL from the Army, and intends to blow up the Pope with a homemade bomb. Add to this nutty stew three crazed nuns, a Hollywood producer, and a deaf starlet, and stir well.

ANALYSIS: This comedy is insanely funny and has been often revived since it premiered in 1986. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (2)


by José Rivera (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Dolores and Ramon Iglesia are trying to sell their dilapidated Long Island home so that they can return with their sons to Puerto Rico after years of unsuccessful struggling to make it in the United States. But establishing title to the house is complicated. Untangling the knots involves expensive trips back and forth to Puerto Rico, and Dolores and Ramon are broke. The selling of the house is the central event of the play and, against that, the family tries to determine whether they are essentially Puerto Rican or essentially American. There is a lot of generational conflict.

ANALYSIS: Wonderful material by a very talented playwright. The drama was first broadcast as part of the American Playhouse public television series in 1986. The entire cast is Hispanic. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Paula Vogel (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The play is told through the onstage narration of a young woman nicknamed “Li’l Bit.” It jumps back and forth in time, tracking her life from age eleven until her early thirties, the unifying theme being the sexual relationship she had with her Uncle Peck all during her childhood and adolescence. By any standard, Uncle Peck is a pedophile, but he is surely the most charming one you will ever see on stage. And, though the child is always the victim, the playwright has not let Li’l Bit off scot-free. All in all, the relationship with her uncle is a sorrowful piece of history, one that will stay with her all her life; it is also one that, in all likelihood, leads ultimately to Uncle Peck’s early alcoholic death.

ANALYSIS: How I Learned to Drive won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and is one of the most intriguing plays you are likely to read or work on. An almost-sweet comedy about pedophilia? It doesn’t seem possible, but Ms. Vogel pulled it off.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by David Rabe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set in the boozy, cocaine-filled world of Hollywood. Two men coming out of failed marriages share a house in the Hollywood Hills. Hurlyburly explores their relationships with each other and with various friends and lovers. There is a continual quest for meaning and connection.

ANALYSIS: Bleak, funny, and brilliantly written. The 1984 production had a dream cast, directed by Mike Nichols: William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Jerry Stiller, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, and Judith Ivey. A challenging play for intelligent actors of all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (3), Male Monologues (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Patrick Tovatt (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Harry’s aging parents are struggling to make ends meet on their Kentucky farm, and they want him to take over the place. But Harry has a life of his own in New York, including a career-oriented wife who has no interest in farming. Harry is ambivalent about moving, and his wife is actively opposed to it.

ANALYSIS: This work explores the plight of the often overlooked American farmer. Well written. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by John Van Druten (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Adapted from The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood, this play was ultimately the basis for the hit musical Cabaret. It tells the story of Sally Bowles, would-be actress/singer, and her circle of friends and lovers in 1930 Berlin. As John Van Druten explains in his preface to the acting edition, the play lacks a definable plot; the intent was to create the feel of Berlin at the dawn of Nazism and to people it with richly drawn characters. Van Druten succeeded, particularly with the demonstrative and dramatic Sally Bowles, one of the loveliest roles an actress could hope for.

ANALYSIS: All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Paul Rudnick (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Andrew Rally, star of the television hit L.A. Medical, returns to New York to “take a few classes, maybe do a play,” wanting to edge his way back into the theater. Instead, based on his celebrity, Andrew gets cast in the title role of Hamlet in Shakespeare in the Park. He is terrified, believing the role is beyond his abilities. Both Andrew’s girlfriend and his agent are encouraging, but his Los Angeles producer/friend thinks he is a fool not to jump into a new television series. Then things take a wild turn when the ghost of John Barrymore appears in Andrew’s apartment and urges him to fulfill his actor’s destiny by playing the great role. When finally Andrew does indeed play Hamlet, he does so not very well, but with the knowledge that he has given it his all.

ANALYSIS: Nicol Williamson played John Barrymore on Broadway and evidently didn’t get along with the actor playing Andrew. During one highly publicized performance, the latter stormed off the stage and quit on the spot because Williamson had swatted him on the butt with a sword during a mock duel. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Mark Harelik (Broadway Play Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: The story begins in Hamilton, Texas, in 1909 and continues to the present day. A young Russian Jewish immigrant, Haskell Harelik, arrives in America through the port of Galveston instead of the usual New York route. Two local residents, Ima and Milton Perry, befriend Haskell and give him a place to live. Subsequently, Milton arranges financing for Haskell’s dry-goods business. After Haskell brings his wife over from Russia, the families continue to share a close friendship. The Harelik family ultimately have three sons, the youngest of whom they name after Milton.

Both families prosper and enjoy one another until 1939, when a Shabbos mealtime discussion about Hitler flares up into a full-fledged argument between the men. After that, they stubbornly refuse to talk to one another for years, meeting only once for a brief time shortly before Milton’s death. In a curtain speech, Milton Harelik, American through-and-through, speaks warmly of his parents and of Ima Perry, bringing their story up to the present day.

ANALYSIS: Americans may be cut from many different kinds of trees, but they all are planted in the same yard. This is a lovely play. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by John Pielmeier (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This play consists of fourteen sketchlike scenes and monologues by the author of Agnes of God. There is no particular theme, but Pielmeier is a fine writer and there is worthwhile material here.

ANALYSIS: Some of the pieces came from a program at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and others from the Actors Theatre of Louisville. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Oscar Wilde (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: John (Jack), who lives in the country, pretends to have a naughty brother named Earnest who lives in the city. Algernon, who lives in the city, pretends to have an invalid friend named Bunbury who lives in the country. Both men use these fictions as excuses to travel back and forth between city and country, to live two separate existences. This complicated and unnecessary fabrication blows up in the men’s faces when they fall in love with Cecily and Gwendolen, who become entangled in the deceit. In the end, the confusion is all straightened out, and everybody gets married, presumably to live happily ever after.

ANALYSIS: This is possibly the most famous comedy ever written. It pokes malicious fun at social manners and pretensions of nineteenth-century England. First performed in 1895. Appropriate for all levels, but novice American actors may have a challenge with the high comedy and sharp, distinctly British repartee.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Lee Blessing (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Kess visits her childhood home in Independence, Iowa, for the first time since moving to Minneapolis four years ago, right after she had her mother committed to a mental hospital. Kess discovers that her sister Jo is pregnant by a man who is about to marry another woman and that their mother, who is out of the hospital and back at home, is planning to raise Jo’s baby. Kess’s sister Sherry, meanwhile, is engaging in meaningless sex, and no member of the family, it seems, is altogether comfortable with the fact that Kess is a lesbian. This all-female household, in short, is very maladjusted. A competition of sorts commences between Kess and her mother to see who can most strongly influence Jo. Kess wants to get her out of Independence and take her to the big city while there is still time for her to salvage a respectable life.

ANALYSIS: An improbable premise for a play that is very well written. This would be what you might call a “serious comedy.” All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (2)


by Robert Anderson (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Gene’s elderly father, Tom, is a stern, demanding, financially successful man who has never been very available on an emotional level. After Tom’s wife dies unexpectedly, he is forced to confront his own physical frailty, as well as the disjointed relationship he has with Gene. The father and son struggle to find some equilibrium, some common points of communication. Tom believes it proper that Gene be the dutiful son and live close by in case he is needed, but Gene contends that he has a life of his own and wants to return to California and remarry. In the end, Gene leaves, and his father eventually follows him to Los Angeles, where the latter dies while still harboring deep feelings of bitterness.

ANALYSIS: A thoughtful, intelligent exploration of a dynamic father/son relationship. Hal Holbrook played Gene on stage in 1968, and Gene Hackman played the character in the 1970 film. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by David Rabe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This play, set in the 1970s, tracks the struggle and ultimate descent of Chrissy, an unsophisticated young woman who comes from squalid, abusive origins. She works as a go-go dancer in a small club and is looking for a way out. Prostitution, childhood incest, and homosexuality are woven into the fabric of this tense story. In the end, Chrissy falls even lower on the social scale, from the relative safety of the go-go cage to becoming a full-tilt stripper.

ANALYSIS: Even though 1970s go-go clubs and go-go cages are a thing of the past, this play still works. It is extremely well written. There is a lot of good workshop material in it. For the latest Samuel French acting edition, David Rabe has revised the play, reverting to its original two-act format.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (2)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Blocked Hollywood screenwriter Herb Tucker awakes one morning to discover his nineteen-year-old daughter, Libby, sitting in the living room. He hasn’t seen her for sixteen years, since divorcing her mother. Now she announces that she wants to be an actress and asks Herb to introduce her to some important movie people. He tries to tell her that the life of an actress is tough, but she won’t hear it. During the next two weeks, Herb and Libby get to know one another, slowly dropping their defenses. They develop the father/daughter relationship that they should have had all along. Finally, Libby gives up the acting idea and returns to her mother in New York, happier now that she has something worked out with Herb.

ANALYSIS: Funny and warm. Good Neil Simon. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Wendy Wasserstein (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Janie and Harriet are prototypes of the urban, educated, upwardly mobile young women who are trying to solve the career/family puzzle.

ANALYSIS: Wendy Wasserstein addresses this subject better probably than anyone else. The play is set back in the 1980s, but the career/family puzzle is still alive and well. Every scene is brief and breezy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (3)


by Joyce Carol Oates (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This play is composed of a series of monologues by women. There is the cafeteria worker who is married to a serial killer, the prostitute who is upset by the blood blister on her lip, the anorexic young woman with the orange, the mental patient who talks about Jesus, and more.

ANALYSIS: Joyce Carol Oates is a world-renowned novelist whose playwriting ventures are a mixed bag, veering toward the experimental. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2)


by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Vito Pignoli, a New York City advertising agency producer, feels sorry for actress Theda Blau, who rushes into a commercial audition at the last minute and nervously rambles through the rather hysterical story of her life. Afterward, he assures her in private that she did a good job in the audition but says that her type is a little too unconventional for his conservative client. Vito and Theda then share a cab, winding up at her place. One thing leads to another, one night turns into two, and, before you know it, these people with wildly different personalities wind up marrying each other. At the final curtain, Vito plans to quit his coat-and-tie ad-agency job and devote himself to writing plays with Theda.

ANALYSIS: This physical comedy is great material for acting workshops. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Cheryl West (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Four generations of women from a single African-American family gather for the great-grandmother’s ninetieth birthday in Park Forest, Illinois. This is the main event of the play, but the real story lies in the way each of the women is trying to escape the expectations of her mother and find her own way in the world. Vennie, the youngest woman, arrives with her white girlfriend, Raisa, a single mother who has had a mastectomy. Vennie’s mother, Maydee, is a college professor with high hopes for her daughter. Maydee’s mother, Lola, is a good-time flashy dresser who, as it turns out, allowed one of her many men friends to molest Maydee when she was thirteen. Lola’s mother, Madear, is senile, delightful, frequently wise, and blunt to a fault. By the final curtain, Lola learns that Vennie isn’t going to get her college diploma after all, that she intends to pursue a singing career instead. Lola and Maydee overtly acknowledge the sexual abuse. And Madear escapes into her reveries.

ANALYSIS: Cheryl West has a keen ear for the music of language, ranging from the very uneducated vernacular of Madear, to Maydee’s sophistication, to Lola’s funky talk. In addition, the playwright puts her finger firmly on the pulse of the mother/daughter dance. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (2)


by August Wilson (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The place is Seth Holly’s rooming house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the time is 1911. The black men and women who stay here are in transit, physically and spiritually. They’re moving between memories of farmhand slavery and the promises inherent in an urban future. Sometimes they still practice voodoo while they pray to a Christian god. Herald Loomis arrives with his eleven-year-old daughter, seeking a room and information on the whereabouts of his wife, Martha. The two were separated when he was incarcerated in Tennessee on Joe Turner’s chain gang. It turns out that Martha has come north and is now a devout member of an evangelical church.

When Martha and Herald meet face-to-face, thanks to the assistance of Rutherford Selig, a white “people finder,” it is clear they can no longer be husband and wife. In fact, they’ve grown apart spiritually. She has found God at the same point at which he has come to distrust a white Jesus. Finally, he turns their daughter over to Martha to raise and walks down the road in search of himself.

ANALYSIS: This is a fascinating play on account of the spiritual never-never land it occupies. The 1988 Broadway production garnered several Tony nominations. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (3), Female Monologues (2)


by Catherine Butterfield (Dramatists Play Service) (Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 1992, Smith & Kraus)

SYNOPSIS: Maggie arrives in Boston on a book-promotion tour and is contacted by her old high-school boyfriend, Jim. She agrees to have dinner with him and his wife, who is coincidentally also named Maggy (but with a different spelling). Maggie arrives for dinner and soon discovers that Maggy has cancer. A relationship develops between the two women, ending with Maggy’s death.

ANALYSIS: The theatrical device used by Ms. Butterfield is that Maggie is telling the story of Maggy from Maggie’s own perspective, but Maggy often thinks the other Maggie’s version is incorrect and interrupts her to set the record straight. There is a shifting in and out of various realities. Very theatrical and beautifully written. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Patrick Meyers (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Mountain climbers Harold and Taylor are stuck on an ice ledge 27,000 feet up the side of K2, the world’s second tallest mountain. There are only two hours of daylight remaining, and one more night without the protection of a tent or sleeping bags means certain death for both men. To make matters worse, Harold’s leg is badly broken, and they have only one rope to use for their descent. Harold and Taylor struggle to save themselves and, while looking death in the face, address the existential questions of life. After a sudden avalanche destroys their remaining equipment, the men decide that Taylor must descend alone, leaving Harold to die.

ANALYSIS: Life-and-death situations make for excellent human drama. Scenework in this one-act play requires heavy clothing and perhaps a rope to establish authenticity. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The show consists of fourteen brief sketchlike comedy scenes that were written to be performed by the authors. The two women play all the characters, which range from God’s reps overseeing the creation of humans, to a straight couple in a gay bar, to a couple of five-year-olds trying to figure out the Church, to a couple of menstruating men (!). The style is fast-moving and irreverent. There is no central plotline per se, just a theme built on the idea that people of all colors, shapes, sexes, and sizes are equal and should appreciate each other.

ANALYSIS: This material can be a lot of fun in workshops for actors who want to play with sketch comedy à la Saturday Night Live. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (5), Female Monologues (1)


by Jane Martin (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Keely was raped and impregnated by her ex-husband, so she decided to have an abortion. On her way to the clinic, she was kidnapped by Operation Retrieval, a Christian anti-abortion organization. Keely soon discovers that she is a prisoner and that the members intend to keep her in chains in a basement room until her pregnancy is too advanced to terminate. Her constant companion is a grandmotherly woman named Du, who takes her orders from a pastor named Walter.

As the months unfold, Keely and Du gradually form a bond, separated only by the fundamental disagreement about the propriety of abortion. On Keely’s birthday, Du secretly arranges a little celebration, allowing Keely to drink some beer and change clothes for the first time since she was captured. The next day Keely grabs the wire hanger that her new dress had been hanging on and performs a self-abortion, causing a massive hemorrhage. Du calls an ambulance, an act that results in her eventual arrest as a kidnapper. In the final scene of the play, Keely is visiting Du in prison.

ANALYSIS: The setup for this drama allows Jane Martin to evenhandedly explore both sides of the abortion debate. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by Kevin Wade (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Lisa is looking for a deeper commitment from Philip, so she suggests they exchange apartment keys. Philip interprets this as being fenced in. He likes things the way they are. Meanwhile, Philip’s newly married friend Michael is having trouble; his wife has run off to have a fling with a choreographer. The action in Key Exchange involves the back-and-forth negotiations in both of these relationships. Ultimately Michael’s wife returns home.

ANALYSIS: Well-written comedy that is fun for acting class. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Tracy Letts (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set in a trailer park outside of Dallas, this play is populated by a family of persistent losers. Chris, the twenty-two-year-old son, has turned to dealing drugs to make a living after a failed rabbit farming venture. He finds himself in peril because he owes some very bad people $6,000, so he comes to the seedy house trailer that his father, Ansel, shares with his new wife and Dottie, Chris’s innocent sister. Ansel, of course, has no money to lend Chris, and so Chris hatches a Plan B. He has recently learned that his mother (Ansel’s ex-wife) has a life insurance policy of which Dottie is the beneficiary. His big idea is that he and Ansel should hire an assassin to kill mama, and then divide up the insurance money.

The plan moves forward with surprising twists and violent turns. Mama winds up dead, but it turns out that Dottie is not the beneficiary. In the end, there is a huge bloodbath.

ANALYSIS: The characters in this play are the very definition of lowlife. They are violent, profane, and almost incestuous. Therefore, the material is not for the fainthearted. Still, “Killer Joe” is extremely well written and often darkly funny.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Michael Cristofer (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Luba, a woman in her late thirties, narrates the history of her love life, from the time she was sixteen up through her present entanglements with Jack. A musician is continually on stage with her, providing clarinet accompaniment for whatever mood she requests. Sometimes she addresses the audience, sometimes the musician, and sometimes she is involved in reenactments from her past.

ANALYSIS: Although this play is full of male/female scenes, they are more like musical riffs and, given the narrator’s shifting focus, probably aren’t the best source material for scenework in acting class. There are, however, a couple of superb monologues. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2)


by John Guare (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Betty is on the Nantucket ferry, trying to understand why so many people in her life—her family, her employers—have died mysterious, untimely deaths. She herself is under suspicion for murdering her own son in New York’s Greenwich Village some months earlier. As she talks with the investigating detective who has been trailing her, the play goes into flashback mode, combing through the events that led Betty from Bangor, Maine, to New York City, to South Carolina, back to New York, and then to the ferry. But she didn’t kill her son, and she never finds out who did.

ANALYSIS: John Guare, one of our finest playwrights, wrote this comic, cryptic, graphic play in two days back in 1977. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Václav Havel (Grove)

SYNOPSIS: Professor Nettle’s book, Ontology of the Human Self, contains a passage that government officials contend “disturbs the intellectual peace,” so they pressure him to disown the work. Largo Desolato, seven scenes in one act, captures the agony and insanity of this intellectual’s dilemma. On one hand, Nettles speaks for many faceless intellectuals when he defies the government; on the other, his life is in shambles. He is a nervous wreck, quickly becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. In the end, he refuses to cooperate.

ANALYSIS: Václav Havel, a Czech dramatist and essayist, became the president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and later of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). His voice remains an important one in the world. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Jean Anouilh (adapted by Lillian Hellman, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: A retelling of the story of Joan of Arc, the fifteenth-century French peasant girl who responded to the voice of God and raised the siege of Orléans. The action moves back and forth in time on a bare stage, beginning with Joan’s childhood and ending with her being burned at the stake after standing trial as a heretic.

ANALYSIS: Julie Harris won a Tony as Best Actress in 1956 for her portrayal of Joan. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After twenty-three years of marriage and having arrived at the ripe age of forty-seven, Barney faces his mortality. He is determined to have one more fling. So, over the course of a year, he brings three women to his mother’s New York City apartment. All three attempts flop, but they cause Barney to develop a new appreciation for his wife.

ANALYSIS: This is an early Neil Simon comedy, something of a chestnut now, but it is still entertaining. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Jane Chambers (JH Press)

SYNOPSIS: Bluefish Cove, near New York City, has been a lesbian beach colony for thirty years. The rental agent mistakenly presumes that Eva, who is running from a bad marriage, is a lesbian, and rents her a cottage, creating an instant threat to the women at the colony who prefer to remain in the closet. As the action evolves, Eva strikes up a romantic relationship with Lil and is happy to finally discover that she is a lesbian. Then Eva learns the horrible news that everybody else at Bluefish Cove already knows: Lil has cancer and has only a few months to live.

ANALYSIS: Frequently touching, well written. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (3)


by Arthur Miller (one-act play, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Two men meet for the first time in the waiting room of a state mental hospital where both their wives are being treated for depression. Frick has money, but Leroy, although a direct descendent of Alexander Hamilton and the son of a lawyer, is a carpenter by trade. He has seven children and is living hand-to-mouth. The men’s conversation is full of class sensitivities and prejudices. Frick’s attitude finally enrages Leroy, and communication breaks down.

ANALYSIS: Note that I am referring here to the one-act play. Arthur Miller also wrote a two-act play with this same title. The one-act is a nine-page, two-character work that Miller wrote for a play festival in New York. As always with his writing, there are complex characters and plenty of subtext. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Corinne Jacker (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Malachai Dowson died a year ago, and his widow and two daughters have gathered this Labor Day at their beach house on the Rhode Island shore. Each woman relates to the memory of Malachai in different ways, and they each try to come to terms with it during the action of this play.

ANALYSIS: Corinne Jacker is a lovely writer. The script is full of subtle and telling details. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (3)


by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Two strangers violently confront one another in the tuna-fish aisle of a New York City supermarket. Because the man is blocking the woman’s path, she hits him over the head and curses at him. This crazy incident is then revisited repeatedly, as the action moves back and forth in time. Both the man and the woman tell their version of what really happened in the store. In the process, the audience learns that she is a frequent resident of mental institutions.

ANALYSIS: Laughing Wild is an outlandishly theatrical experiment more than a play, “breaking the fourth wall” and jumping back and forth in time. But it is very funny. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Michel Tremblay (translated by John Van Burek and Bill Glassco; Talonbooks, Canada)

SYNOPSIS: Germaine has won a million trading stamps in a contest and is having a stamp-pasting party. Her sisters and friends steal the stamps as they paste them in. There is no plot per se in this all-female comedy-drama set in a small Catholic parish in Canada. The women put most of their energy into such unimportant activities as playing bingo and entering contests.

ANALYSIS: Stylistically, this play is dazzling and often bewildering. It caused a big dustup when first staged in Canada back in 1968 because it gave voice to a class of people usually ignored. It can be grotesquely comic while, at other times, poignant and troubling. The women suggest that the Catholic Church and men are responsible for their sad state of affairs. Scenework is not practical because there is such a large ensemble cast on stage at all times, but there are several excellent monologues.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (3)


by Christopher Hampton (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The action in this two-act drama takes place in and around Paris during the 1780s and involves wealthy, decadent, sexually cynical members of the aristocracy. The main plotline centers on a deal struck between the dashing and immoral Valmont and his sometimes lover, widow Madame Merteuil. She is seeking revenge against a former lover who jilted her and who now intends to marry Cécile, a virgin. Merteuil enlists Valmont to seduce (i.e., ruin) the younger woman before her wedding night. He at first refuses the assignment because he doesn’t see enough sport in the pursuit of a fifteen-year-old. In addition, he is stalking bigger game, namely the virtuous, married, straight-laced Madame de Tourvel. Eventually he agrees and winds up seducing both Cécile and de Tourvel.

The fun, however, goes out of the game for Valmont because he allows himself to fall in love with de Tourvel, a mortal error according to the upside-down code of morals he and his fellow aristocrats share. Entanglements become even more complex as Le Chevalier Danceny beds Merteuil even though he is in love with Cécile. In the end, Valmont is killed in a duel with this man.

ANALYSIS: It is hard to keep all the liaisons on stage in focus, but it is worth the effort. It is wonderful material for sophisticated actors. The play is based on the classic novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (5)


by Sam Shepard (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Jake beat up his wife again, and this time thinks he killed her. He travels south, hiding out with his younger brother, Frankie, in a shabby motel room while he tries to sort out his options. Beth, meanwhile, doesn’t die, but suffers brain damage and is being nursed by her parents in Billings, Montana. Jake moves into his childhood room in his mother’s house, and Frankie heads to Montana to find out if Beth is dead or alive. He winds up getting shot in the leg by Beth’s dad, who mistakes him for a deer. In the end, Jake also shows up in Montana, wrapped in the American flag, only to discover that Beth’s mind has snapped, and that she is going to marry the relatively gentler Frankie.

ANALYSIS: Sam Shepard paints with bold colors, mainly red, white, and blue. His plays are full of symbolism as he claws at the underpinnings of the great American myths. Wide-open spaces, good old boys, women who stand by their men—and guns, always and forever, guns. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Keith Reddin (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Franklin joined the army to fight in the Korean War, leaving his new wife, Effie, behind. He lost his right arm during the battle at Pork Chop Hill and now, back in the United States, is unable to find work. Franklin descends into a depressed, alcoholic haze. Just when he is at his most desperate, he lands a job at a company that sells prosthetic devices. Gainfully employed at last, Franklin purchases a new television as a surprise gift for Effie, who is by now having an affair with another man. Before she sees the television, however, she and her girlfriend Doina are killed in a freak movie theater accident. Franklin becomes more and more subservient to Tod Cartmell, the owner of the prosthetic device company. At the play’s end, Franklin dies and joins Effie in hell. Literally.

ANALYSIS: Keith Reddin has an excellent feel for dialogue and stagecraft, and the milieu of this drama, 1952-1956, is unusual. Most scenes are suitable for actors of any level, but the office confrontation between Franklin and Cartmell involves sexual humiliation and is appropriate for advanced actors only.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by James Goldman (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Henry II still has a deep affection for his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, but keeps her in prison because they can’t agree on which of their three sons will inherit the English throne. Complicating their long-term dispute is an agreement Henry made with the French king regarding the marriage of Princess Alais to one of his sons in exchange for the grant of an important plot of land located twenty miles outside of Paris. Henry is himself now hopelessly in love with Alais and is unwilling to see her marry anyone but himself. In the end, he disinherits all of his sons and leaves for Rome in order to have his marriage to Eleanor annulled. This will free him to marry Alais. Henry hopes that a new marriage will produce worthier sons.

ANALYSIS: An appealing and fanciful comedy-drama with a peculiar, almost flippant tone in the face of life-and-death stakes. Although the play is set in 1183, the language is contemporary. Immortalized in the 1968 film of the same name, starring Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4)


by Terrence McNally (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Sally’s brother died and left his Fire Island home to her. She, her husband Sam, and another couple, John and Chloe, are spending the Fourth of July weekend there. It turns out that Sally and John have been having an affair for a while, that John has been diagnosed with cancer, and that no one really gets along with each other. Everybody laughs a great deal, but there is always an underlying tension.

ANALYSIS: This comedy-drama displays Terrence McNally’s usual excellent ear for dialogue. But note that all four characters are on stage continually, which makes scenework for acting class difficult. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Terrence McNally (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Terrence McNally wrote two different endings for this play, which deals with the shifting relationships among several gay men. In both versions, Stephen is jealous of his lover Mike’s involvement with a new man. In one version, he murders Mike; in the other, he doesn’t. The first act is the same in both plays, a funny extended scene between Stephen and his friend Mendy.

ANALYSIS: In my view, The Lisbon Traviata has something of an identity crisis. The first act is definitely comedy. The second act can’t make up its mind. Still, McNally is one of our finest playwrights. He writes dialogue as well as the best of them. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Lillian Hellman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Set in the Deep South in 1900, The Little Foxes is about a ruthless family that turns on itself and about the innocent people who get hurt in the crossfire. Ben and Oscar Hubbard are brothers who will stop at nothing to make a dollar, including overcharging uneducated blacks and even marrying for money instead of love if necessary. They’ve arranged the deal of their lives, but they need their sister Regina’s assistance to raise the investment. When she can’t persuade her ailing husband, Horace, to participate, Oscar’s spineless son, Leo, simply steals the money from him. Horace discovers the crime but, before he can take legal steps to do anything about it, he suffers a massive heart attack and dies.

ANALYSIS: This 1939 Broadway drama would have been better titled The Little Pit Vipers because of its cast of immoral characters. It is said that Tallulah Bankhead played Regina to the hilt in the original production. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Kenneth Lonergan (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Jeff is a security guard in a midlevel Manhattan high-rise apartment building. He’s not the sharpest tack in the box, but he tries hard and wants to do something worthwhile with his life. His role model and inspiration is his up-by-the-bootstraps African-American supervisor, William. The event that kick-starts the action of Lobby Hero occurs when William’s younger brother is accused by the police of participating in a heinous rape and murder. William confides in Jeff that he doesn’t trust the legal system to treat his brother fairly and has provided him with a false alibi. Then come Dawn and Bill, two New York City cops, who make a stop at Jeff’s building. It transpires that Bill is visiting an “actress” in apartment 22J on a regular basis while he is sexually involved with his trusting partner, Dawn, on the side. Dawn, meanwhile, is actually in love with Bill and is shocked when Jeff tells her the truth about the woman in 22J. Jeff develops a crush on Dawn, which leads to discussions about their personal lives (while Bill is upstairs in 22J). Ultimately, Jeff has to decide whether or not to “do the right thing” and tell Dawn about William’s big lie.

ANALYSIS: This play won the 2000 Outer Critics Circle Best Play. At first glance, it is deceptively simple and straightforward but, if you scratch the surface a bit, you see that all four characters are struggling with questions of ethics and morality. Along the way, the playwright questions the fairness of the legal system, the meaning of love, the obligations of friendship, and one’s purpose in life. Lonergan has a wonderful way with dialogue, and his words roll easily off an actor’s tongue.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by John Patrick Shanley (Welcome to the Moon and Other Plays, Dramatists Play Service). Also in 13 by Shanley (Applause Books)

SYNOPSIS: Walter is in love with a mermaid that lives in New York’s Central Park Reservoir. Late one night, he brings his best friend, Jim, to see her. Jim, understandably, is skeptical of the entire enterprise and isn’t crazy about being in dangerous Central Park at midnight. Furthermore, Walter took him away from a fun party where he was just about to score with a pretty woman.

Sally the mermaid doesn’t show up no matter how much Walter tries to summon her. Finally Jim gets tired of the whole thing—and worried about his friend’s mental health—and he exits. Once he is gone, the mermaid predictably pops up to talk to Walter.

ANALYSIS: This is a delightful piece of fluff and can be great fun for the actors who play it. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Eugene O’Neill (Yale University Press)

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place during a single day at the Tyrone summer home in 1912. Aging actor James Tyrone is forced to recognize that his wife, Mary, has once again descended into morphine addiction; his youngest son, Edmund, has contracted tuberculosis; and his shiftless eldest son, Jamie, will never reform. Mary is still tortured with guilt over the death of their two-year-old son twenty-five years ago. In addition, she has never been able to adjust to the nomadic lifestyle of an actor. She would rather live with her drug-induced fantasies of a bygone youth than suffer more pain in the real world.

James has saved almost every penny he ever earned and is now quite rich. Still, he lives in fear of poverty and is slow to part with a dollar even when it comes to paying for medical care for his own family. Jamie, at thirty-three, can find no profession he likes or is good at and is still financially dependent on his father. This situation further robs Jamie of his self-esteem. Edmund, though ill with tuberculosis, is actually the healthiest member of the family.

ANALYSIS: Eugene O’Neill wrote this famous autobiographical drama (he based Edmund on himself) in 1940, but it wasn’t published until after his death in 1956. This is a major achievement for the American theater and a must-read for all acting students. The difficult material is appropriate for thoughtful and serious actors at all levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Ketti Frings (based on Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: World War I is raging in Europe, but time is measured more slowly in Altamont, North Carolina, where young Eugene Gant lives in a ramshackle, familyrun boardinghouse. His tight-fisted mother appears to control his destiny just as she has that of Eugene’s brother, Ben; sister, Helen; and artistic, alcoholic father, W. O. Gant. Then, one month during the fall of 1916, everything changes. Ben suddenly gets sick and dies, and Eugene falls in love with a pretty boarder named Laura. Their romance, while sweet and pure, is destined to fail because she is older than he—and, unbeknownst to him, is engaged to somebody back home. At the final curtain, Eugene is bound for college, for which his mother only grudgingly agrees to pay. With his imminent departure, she begins to realize how hollow her life has become.

ANALYSIS: Thomas Wolfe’s autobiographical novel (he is Eugene) is a treasure of American literature, and Ketti Frings’s adaptation, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1958, does it proud. The role of Eugene, by the way, was an early showcase for Anthony Perkins. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Female Monologues (1)


by William Inge (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The life of an actress was rough in 1933, especially if her show folded in a remote city. Lila Green, finding herself stranded in just such a situation and with no employment prospects, temporarily moves in with Helen Baird and her son, a family she worked for years ago as a housekeeper and baby sitter. Although thirty-two years old, Lila is, in many ways, an unsophisticated and immature woman; she needs a man to baby and care for her. Ricky Powers, her current beau, is an insensitive and domineering actor who tries to entice her into performing in blue movies in Kansas City. Lila resists this proposition until an impulsively romantic night with Helen’s young son, Kenny, turns into a disappointment the following morning. Forced to confront her advancing age and dismal employment prospects, Lila abandons her dreams of success on the stage, departing with Ricky for Kansas City, where the sordid world of pornography awaits her.

ANALYSIS: William Inge was a protégé of Tennessee Williams, and this drama carries the same air of poetry and symbolism that typifies Williams’s work. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After Arthur and Jay Kurnitz’s mother dies of cancer in 1942, they live for a year with their Grandma Kurnitz in Yonkers while their father works his way out of debt via out-of-town employment. It is through their eyes that the audience meets the family. For the most part, Lost in Yonkers is a character-driven work. The primary action centers on the evolution of the relationship between Grandma, an iron-fisted, humorless, old-school German-Jewish immigrant, and Bella, her childlike thirty-five-year-old daughter who lives at home and takes care of her. After the year passes, the boys’ father returns to New York City, and they move back in with him.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Tony for Best Play. Mercedes Ruehl (Bella) and the wonderful Irene Worth (Grandma) also won Tony Awards as Best Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively. The role of Bella is among Neil Simon’s finest achievements. She is a vulnerable, hopeful, and eccentric woman-child. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Jason Miller (Three One-Act Plays, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Victor Spinilli is the good but demanding coach of the Spinilli Spoilers, a Long Island little-league baseball team sponsored by the Spinilli family business, which Victor’s father runs. After Victor gets into an on-field fistfight with an umpire, his father has him fired from the coaching job. This event, coupled with a late-afternoon conversation with the mother of a shy and sensitive boy on the team, leads Victor to serious introspection about his values, his relationship with his overbearing father, and his marriage.

ANALYSIS: This is a haunting, sometimes cryptic one-act drama by the author of That Championship Season. The writing here is superb, and the interplay among the characters always rings true. Jason Miller has an excellent ear for dialogue. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Harold Pinter (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Sarah and Richard, married ten years, have an unusual arrangement. After he leaves for work, she prepares herself to receive a lover. Richard returns in mid-afternoon, pretending to be the lover. Eventually Richard becomes jealous of the relationship his wife is having with his other, pretend self. He arrives home as Richard and declares that the whole fantasy relationship has to end. By then, however, Sarah is addicted to the arrangement, and so she begins to seduce Richard, who then turns back into the lover. The fantasy relationship will continue, if we can figure out which one is real and which is fantasy.

ANALYSIS: This play can be a lot of fun for sophisticated actors, having been written by one of the world’s great playwrights. Just keep in mind that it deals headon with sexual fantasy. Actors must be secure, trusting, and professional in their approach to it.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Each of the five sketchy mini-comedies presented under the umbrella title of Lovers and Other Strangers deals with romantic relationships. The plots are minimal, but the dialogue is often hilarious.

ANALYSIS: There is an old New York saying: If you’re from New York, and you’re not Jewish, you’re Jewish; if you’re from Texas, and you’re Jewish, you’re not Jewish. Actors who do scenes from this comedy can keep that in mind. Very funny material. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Romulus Linney (Dramatists Play Service) (one-act version: Seventeen Short Plays, Smith & Kraus)

SYNOPSIS: The commanding general of Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and his wife commit joint suicide in a very public, highly ritualized Japanese ceremony. This play involves the subsequent hearing into the event. Through the words of many who knew and worked with them, it starts to become clear that this was an act of self-sacrifice. Ultimately, it is a call for all of us to get more involved in the political actions of our country.

ANALYSIS: Romulus Linney (side note: His daughter is actress Laura Linney) has a keen ear for dialogue. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Lanford Wilson (Balm in Gilead and Other Plays by Lanford Wilson, Hill & Wang/Noonday)

SYNOPSIS: Rachel is distressed because she turned her boyfriend in to the authorities after she caught him stealing money from her and her roommate, Agnes. Now that he is in jail, Rachel thinks she may have overreacted. Agnes thinks Rachel did the right thing in this case but that she has had entirely too many boyfriends (six) in the last nine months. Still, Agnes admits that Rachel’s social life may have been more exciting than her own dull one during the same period. All Agnes has to look forward to is tomorrow’s lunch with her boss’s skinny son—if she can get over this terrible cold, that is.

ANALYSIS: Excellent interplay between characters, and there is the extra challenge for one of the actors, who must have the mother of all colds. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Murray Schisgal (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Ellen is married to Milt, who is doing very well in business. Then she divorces him and marries Harry, Milt’s old school chum who is climbing up from the depths of depression. Then Ellen divorces Harry and remarries Milt. Everybody tries to figure out the meaning of life, the mysteries of death, and of course, love.

ANALYSIS: Wonderful dark comedy. The characters are rich, full, sad, and funny. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Robert Bolt (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: King Henry VIII wants to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled by the Catholic Church so that he can marry the young Anne Boleyn, who he hopes will give him a male heir. The Pope, however, turns down his request because he has already been forgiven one previous marriage. Furious, Henry requires his subjects to sign an Act of Supremacy, making him both spiritual and temporal leader of England. Sir Thomas More sympathizes with Henry’s plight but will not sign the Act. The monarch puts increasing pressure on him, but More stands on principle. Finally, Henry has him executed.

ANALYSIS: Surely one of the best plays ever written, A Man for All Seasons raises questions about the role government versus church should play, and ethics. What price is a person willing to pay for his or her integrity? Thomas More paid with his life. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2)


by August Wilson (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A recording session for Ma Rainey, “the mother of the blues,” brings her together with her musicians who discuss, debate, and fight about the plight of the black person in America during the 1930s. After some fits and starts, they finally get the record cut, but that isn’t the real point of the play. Among the colorful characters, Levee, the cornet player, has the most interesting development arc. He is a more serious musician than the others and has hopes for a recording contract of his own. When some white record producers thwart that dream, he sinks to the level of a street thug, knifing and killing another musician who accidentally steps on his new shoes.

ANALYSIS: Nominated for several Tony Awards in 1985, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was August Wilson’s first play to reach Broadway. The monologues are terrific. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (5)


by John Guare (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This is a comedy in the Absurdist tradition, set in the year 1999 on an iceberg off the coast of Norway. Stony McBride is making a movie about Marco Polo, starring his own father. Stony’s pregnant wife, a celebrated pianist, is involved in an affair with a politician who has gotten his hands on a cure for cancer. During the play, the audience experiences a cataclysmic earthquake that destroys much of Italy (Hawaii is already long gone), the discovery of a new planet, the astral impregnation of a woman by an astronaut, and a sudden change of power in Washington, DC.

ANALYSIS: John Guare intended Marco Polo Sings a Solo to be a philosophical counterpoint to his work The House of Blue Leaves. While the latter play deals with the limitations the characters face, this comedy presents a world of possibilities. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Thornton Wilder (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This play is set in the early 1880s. Horace Vandergelder is a sweet, blustery, unmarried, self-made bag of hot air. Matchmaker Miss Dolly Levi is going to take care of that just as soon as she gets the cupids in place for his niece, Ermengarde, and her beloved, Ambrose the artist. There is a good deal of farcical running here and there, hiding behind screens and under tables, mistaken identities, and all sorts of charming diversions. In the end, everything comes up roses.

ANALYSIS: Was life ever really this simple? The Matchmaker is an American classic that was adapted in 1964 as the Barbra Streisand musical Hello Dolly! All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by David Henry Hwang (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Inspired by the true 1986 story of a French diplomat who passed state secrets to a Chinese actress who turned out to be not only a spy, but a man. Here Gallimard truly believes the illusion of femininity the opera singer Song Liling creates. The play unites these basic facts with a fable that highlights Western misconceptions and fantasies about Eastern women and their countries. The glue that holds it all together is the parallel story told in the opera Madame Butterfly.

ANALYSIS: All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by A. R. Gurney, Jr. (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place in the trophy room of a men’s club in a large city from the mid-1940s through the late 1970s. The small cast of characters must age during this lengthy time span, which is a good part of the acting challenge. The club is a symbol of a kind of highly structured, conservative, moneyed lifestyle that the various characters are continually seeking or avoiding, and the play tracks the way their shifting values alternately pull them together and drive them apart.

ANALYSIS: A. R. Gurney is firmly anchored in WASP America, and this comedy holds its underlying values up for examination. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Paddy Chayefsky (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A kindly fifty-three-year-old widower falls in love with a twenty-three-year-old woman who is unhappily married to a musician. No one in their circle of acquaintances approves of this union, but their love is true.

ANALYSIS: Excellent human drama, frequently touching. The actor who plays the widower needs to have a good feel for New York speech patterns. This sensitivity isn’t as essential for the part of the young woman. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by August Strindberg (Six Plays of Strindberg, translated by Elizabeth Sprigge, Doubleday/Anchor)

SYNOPSIS: During a midsummer night’s revelry that takes place while her father, the Count, is away visiting relatives, Miss Julie makes love with Jean, the family valet. Unable to accept the consequences of her actions, she commits suicide, presumably after the final curtain. The sexual interplay between Miss Julie and Jean violates the taboo of class boundaries, provoking a conflict between her “instincts” as a woman and the propriety of her status in society.

ANALYSIS: Eugene O’Neill, accepting the 1936 Nobel Prize for Drama, said of August Strindberg: “(his)…influence runs clearly through more than a few of my plays…For me, he remains, as Nietzsche remains, in his sphere, the master, still to this day more modern than any of us, still our leader.” Written in 1888 by a renowned misogynist and controversial in its time, Miss Julie is noted for the psychological complexity of its characters, its straightforward approach to sexual realism, and its unusual one-act format. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Howard Teichmann (adapted from Nathanael West’s novel, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: A young, cynical, and ambitious newspaper reporter becomes an advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist during the 1930s. Known now as Miss Lonelyhearts, he finds that his life changes dramatically as the terrible problems of his readers force him to examine the concept of a merciful God. In an almost Christlike fashion, he tries to heal everyone who asks for his help. He gives himself sexually to a sad and lonely woman, who then turns on him when he refuses to have relations with her again. Her husband, a handicapped meter reader for the gas company, finds Lonelyhearts and kills him.

ANALYSIS: Nathanael West’s 1933 novella is a classic of American literature. This stage adaptation doesn’t come close to the disturbing power of the book, but some of the scenes are good. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1)


by Roberto Athayde (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A one-woman show in which a domineering teacher harangues the audience, treating them as if they are rather stupid eighth-graders. She sometimes threatens to send them to the principal, from which some people never return.

ANALYSIS: Written by a young Brazilian playwright, this controversial play is likely a metaphor for an imperialistic United States. Estelle Parsons drew raves and received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of the teacher. Rough language, challenging material for experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2)


by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The action takes place aboard a supply ship operating in the back areas of the Pacific, May 1945. Lieutenant AJG Roberts, otherwise known as Mister Roberts, dropped out of medical school to get into the war and is frustrated by his noncombat assignment on the supply ship. An irreverent free spirit, he has conflicts with the self-made captain, an ambitious high-school dropout who resents college educated know-it-alls. In order to secure a much-needed recreational shore leave for the crew, Roberts strikes a secret deal with the captain, agreeing to be a better team player and to stop requesting transfers. Then, in frustration, he tosses the captain’s beloved potted palm overboard.

During the ensuing shouting match between Roberts and the captain, which is inadvertently broadcast over the ship’s loudspeakers, the crew learns about the deal and conspires to forge a transfer request to help Roberts get off the ship. Their scheme works: Roberts goes into combat, and is killed. His spirit and courage are inspirational to the crew, who begin to assert themselves in newer, stronger ways.

ANALYSIS: A well-crafted comedy-drama that ran for three years on Broadway, making Henry Fonda a star. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Three-Person Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Dennis McIntyre (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The police are hunting for the artist Modigliani, who broke the front window of a fancy restaurant in Paris. He desperately tries to borrow money from friends so that he and his lover, Beatrice, can flee to Martinique. In the meantime, Modigliani’s agent, Zborowski, has made an appointment to show the artist’s work to an important gallery owner. A sale would solve all the couple’s financial problems. When the deal doesn’t go through, Modigliani’s situation gets even worse; his health deteriorates with tuberculosis, and Beatrice leaves him. At the end of the play, he and his friend Utrillo begin again with blank canvases.

ANALYSIS: A lusty, vibrant drama that is filled with historic and colorful characters who care intensely about life. Modigliani died when he was only thirty-five years old. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by William Gibson (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This is a sequel to The Miracle Worker, which deals with Annie Sullivan and her work with Helen Keller. Here, the action begins when Helen is in her early twenties and Annie is thirty-five, and tracks them for the next fifteen years or so. Annie marries John, a young academic who comes to help Helen with her writing. In time, however, he feels slighted by the growing fame of the two women and turns to drink. His marriage to Annie then founders.

ANALYSIS: Any scenes involving Helen are impracticable for workshop use because of technical requirements. People communicate with her by tapping on her palm, and the words are interpreted over the theater’s public address system. There are, however, a couple of excellent scenes between Annie and John. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Eugene O’Neill (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After James Tyrone’s mother died in California, he escorted her body across the country by rail, spending most of the trip in a drunken stupor and sleeping with the trashiest whore he could find on the train. A Moon for the Misbegotten begins a year after that trip. Tyrone feels deeply guilty and seeks forgiveness from Josie Hogan, the daughter of a tenant farmer on Connecticut land owned by Tyrone’s family. Josie is nearly six feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. She is a powerful, full-breasted woman, not mannish at all, just big and powerful. She claims to have slept with half the men in the nearby village, but the big secret is that she is actually a virgin. Tyrone sees through her facade, she sees through his, and their confrontation on the porch in Act III is one of the most complex and revealing in dramatic literature. As their defenses fall, Josie realizes that Tyrone is looking for forgiveness, not a lover, and that the romance she hoped for will never be realized. At the final curtain, Tyrone heads down the road, bound for New York City, following the lure of bright lights and Broadway.

ANALYSIS: The last script completed by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, A Moon for the Misbegotten is a sequel to Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This second play tracks the tragic path of James Tyrone, Jr., a character that O’Neill based on his real-life brother, Jamie. World-class material for serious actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by William Hanley (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Mrs. Dally, age thirty-eight, is a closet romantic. She reads John Donne’s poetry and longs to experience more of the sensitive possibilities in life. She is trapped, however, in a joyless fifteen-year marriage with a distant, insensitive, blue-collar husband in a small New York City apartment. The play concerns the ongoing sexual relationship she has with Frankie, an eighteen-year-old who lives downstairs in the same tenement building. On the surface, the age difference between Mrs. Dally and the young man makes their union seem almost sordid, but that is not the case.

ANALYSIS: This lovely and unusual one-act play, winner of the Vernon Rice Award for distinguished production off-Broadway, is frequently poetic and always tender. The age difference between the characters causes the audience—and actors—to reevaluate their preconceptions about romantic love. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by George Bernard Shaw (Plays: Man and Superman; Candida; Arms and the Man; Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Signet Classic)

SYNOPSIS: Vivie Warren, a strong and confident, Cambridge-educated young woman, discovers that her mother has amassed considerable wealth from the operation of brothels. Despite Mrs. Warren’s explanations about her impoverished origins and the scarce opportunities afforded women in the business world, Vivie is repulsed by her mother’s occupation. At the final curtain, Vivie banishes Mrs. Warren—and her money—from her life.

ANALYSIS: The idea behind this play is to pit the characters of mother and daughter against one another: Mother works in the ditches in order to pay for the best education for her daughter; the educated daughter learns to look down upon the values of her own mother. Shaw wrote this play in 1894. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This zany physical comedy tracks the shifting relationships between Arlene Miller; her husband, Paul, a used-car salesman; and their dentist and her lover, Mitchell Lovell. As the play’s title suggests, all the action takes place in a Howard Johnson’s motel. In Act I, Scene 1, Arlene and Mitchell plot to murder Paul. But in Act I, Scene 2, Arlene and Paul reunite and plot to murder Mitchell, who has begun an affair with his dental assistant. By Act II, Arlene has abandoned both men in favor of a relationship with her guru, so Mitchell and Paul get together and plot her murder. At the final curtain, Arlene and Paul reconcile, and Mitchell resolves to remain just a dentist.

ANALYSIS: A wildly improbable premise can lead to wonderful acting fun if everybody goes along with it. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Christopher Durang (Three Short Plays, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Eleanor is having a terrible time. As the curtain goes up, she is sobbing because her oldest son is a dope pusher and pimp; her middle son is a homosexual; and her youngest son, Andy, lost his penis in a freak reaping-machine accident. Then things really start to deteriorate. Sister Annie De Maupassant shows up at the house and announces that she is the new Pope. The census taker (who looks suspiciously like Sister Annie) appears and advises Eleanor to commit suicide because she is such a failure, and the athletic coach at Andy’s school insists that since he has no penis, he must compete in girls’ gymnastics. And that’s not all…the chaos continues.

ANALYSIS: Durang’s work just about defies reasonable analysis, but it is a toot to act. His characters are way out there on the comic ledge.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2)


by Larry Shue (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Rick Steadman, who saved Willum’s life during the Vietnam War, unexpectedly turns up at his home for a visit. Willum, eternally grateful to the man, rolls out the red carpet and tries to be a good host. Rick, however, turns out to be the houseguest from hell: a thoughtless, clumsy, self-involved nerd. After suffering in silence for a week, Willum and his friends plan to get rid of Rick.

ANALYSIS: Dinner-theater comedy, physical, silly, dumb at times, and fun. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Marsha Norman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Jessie lives with her mother in a small house on a country road. Having decided that her life isn’t worth living, she tells her mother that she has decided to commit suicide and, methodically, begins the final preparation for that event. Jessie contentedly attends to details as her mother’s horror and desperation grow. Exactly ninety minutes—in real time—from the opening curtain, Jessie walks into the next room and shoots herself.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is nerve-racking at times, humorous at times, and always insightful. It made Kathy Bates a star. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The events in this play occur in 1940, during one long day in the offseason of the ramshackle Costa Verde Hotel on the Mexican coast, the kind of resort that attracts drifters and travelers off the beaten path. Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, a defrocked Episcopal priest, seducer of young girls, and for many years a nickel-and-dime tour conductor, arrives with a busload of unhappy female tourists. He is suffering another of his nervous breakdowns and has come to see his friend, Fred, the owner of Costa Verde. But Fred died a month ago, and now Fred’s lusty widow, Maxine, hanging on by a financial thread, is deciding whether to close the place and move to Texas or make a go of it alone. She immediately begins trying to convince Shannon to move in with her.

Then two other unwanted guests arrive: a dying, financially destitute ninety-seven-year-old minor poet from Nantucket and his unmarried sketch-artist granddaughter Hannah. All these lost souls interact, and by the day’s end, Shannon agrees to stay with Maxine, the old man composes his final poem and dies, and Hannah decides to continue the world tour alone. Some native boys capture an iguana and tie it under the verandah to fatten it before eating it. The iguana’s continual tugging against the rope becomes a metaphor for the predicament of all the guests in the hotel, each struggling against his or her own unseen restraints and trying to escape.

ANALYSIS: Bleak is too happy a word to describe this harrowing Tennessee Williams drama, but its poetry can’t be denied. Difficult material for experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Alan Ayckbourn (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Sarah and her husband, Reg, arrive in the country to take over the mother-nursing duties from Reg’s sister Annie for a weekend while she goes on a romantic holiday, presumably with her longtime friend, Tom. But Sarah soon discovers that Annie is actually planning to spend the time with Norman, her charming and romantic brother-in-law, an arrangement that Sarah contends won’t do at all. Annie then reluctantly cancels the trip. Soon, however, everyone in the house knows what she and Norman were up to. This discovery adds to family tensions and produces more embarrassment and confusion during the weekend. When Norman’s plans with Annie go awry, he makes a play for Sarah. But in the very final moment of the play, he and Annie get back together.

ANALYSIS: Table Manners is part of a trilogy of plays called The Norman Conquests. The other two parts, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden, take place during the same weekend in the same house and involve the same cast of characters. Each comedy stands alone. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Elaine May (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Edith wants to borrow some rope from Claude, her new neighbor across the hall, so that she can hang herself. Claude doesn’t have any rope, but he has some twine, so she takes that instead. Edith goes back to her apartment and ties herself up. Once she is standing on the chair ready to make the fatal jump, however, she changes her mind and calls for Claude to rescue her, which he is in no hurry to do. He finally cuts her down, however.

ANALYSIS: A silly one-act play that can be loads of fun for acting students because the premise is so outrageous. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Caryl Churchill (Theatre Communications Group)

SYNOPSIS: Would you have a beloved child cloned if the technology were available? Salter, now in his early sixties, did just that thirty-five years ago and, in this two-actor play, he is brought face-to-face with the consequences of his action. We learn that Salter intended to have only a single clone made, but the scientists secretly made twenty of them. Salter, whose original motivations were colored by depression and alcoholism, personally knows only the original son and the first clone—until the final scene in the play, when he meets one of the other twenty for the first time.

ANALYSIS: Caryl Churchill has written something wonderfully reminiscent of Pinter or Beckett. The subject matter is as fresh and challenging as today’s headlines. Stylistically, there are few capital letters and little punctuation in the script, causing the actors to have to figure out thought patterns and emphasis, just as they have to figure out the tough questions that arise from cloning, parenthood, parental love, sibling rivalry, individuality, genetics, and nature versus nurture. This is excellent material for experienced performers. One actor plays Salter, the father; the other actor plays the original son plus two of his clones.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (5)


by Tom Topor (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After Claudia’s marriage broke up, she became a high-priced call girl for a few months. When she killed an abusive customer, she was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Examined by court psychiatrists, she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. She believes she acted properly, however, and wants to be found sane so that she can face the charges. The action of this play centers on Claudia’s sanity hearing. Her mother and stepfather want her to be found incompetent; then they won’t be forced to balance her values against their own.

ANALYSIS: This material is appropriate for sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (4)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: When Florence’s husband leaves her after fourteen years of marriage, she moves in with her good friend, Olive. This new living arrangement quickly degenerates into a situation in which Florence’s compulsive cleanliness and worrying drive Olive, a toss-cares-to-the-wind type of person, to distraction.

ANALYSIS: A fun reversal of the male version of the same comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (3)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Oscar and Felix, both recently separated from their wives, are polar opposites. Oscar is a cigar-smoking slob who can’t cook a frozen dinner, and Felix is compulsively clean and a gourmet cook. When they decide to share Oscar’s eight-room Riverside Drive apartment in New York City, Felix drives Oscar to utter distraction within three weeks.

ANALYSIS: This comedy is almost an industry in itself, having been turned into a successful movie, television series, and having had continual revivals throughout the United States. The roles of Oscar and Felix were originally created by Walter Matthau and Art Carney. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (4), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by John Steinbeck (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: George and Lennie are migrant farm workers, always close to broke, and always dreaming of a place of their own. George calls the shots and watches over his physically powerful but childlike friend. Their last job near Weed, California, ended abruptly when Lennie innocently tried to feel the pretty fabric of a woman’s dress. She panicked, ran to the law, and cried rape, but their present situation turns into even more of a disaster than the preceding one. Lennie accidentally kills the flirtatious wife of the boss’s jealous son. Certain that Lennie will be lynched by a mob, George decides to kill him first, as an act of pity and love.

ANALYSIS: Gritty 1937 drama about the struggles of migrant Americans. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Arthur Kopit (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Jonathan’s mother shields him from the outside world, so he occupies himself with his large coin and stamp collections and constructs a telescope, hoping that he’ll be able to see far-off things. As the curtain rises, he and his mother are arriving in a Caribbean resort city and have brought with them enough luggage to occupy an entire squad of bellboys. In addition, Madame Rosepettle, as usual, carries with her the corpse of her late husband, neatly stuffed and ready to be hung inside the closet. A few days after their arrival, Rosalie, an attractive young woman who housesits for an absentee couple across the way, visits Jonathan. When she turns seductive, Madame Rosepettle kicks her out.

Meanwhile, Madame Rosepettle is courted by Commodore Roseabove, who owns a very long yacht. By the end of this insane comedy, Jonathan kills Rosalie rather than accept her invitation to accompany her into the outside world. Madame Rosepettle continues to shield him, and her husband’s corpse keeps falling out of the closet.

ANALYSIS: Written in the Absurdist tradition, this comedy is fun for actors who are willing to jump directly into the deep end of the pool. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Harold Pinter (Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: Kate and Deeley spend an evening with Kate’s friend Ann, whom she hasn’t seen for twenty years. As is typical of many Harold Pinter plays, it is unclear exactly what the relationships are among the three of them. Perhaps Kate and Ann used to be lovers. Perhaps Deeley and Ann were lovers before he married Kate.

ANALYSIS: Pinter can sometimes be a puzzle because he toys with reality. As soon as you think you know where the characters are coming from, they move. When you consider all the famous pauses in Pinter’s scripts, you must keep in mind that a pause means something. When you pause, the pause itself becomes a choice; it is not merely silence. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by David Mamet (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: John is a successful, published university professor who, on the eve of receiving tenure, is accused of sexual harassment by Carol, a female student. Subsequently, his tenure is denied, he can’t afford the house he and his wife were going to purchase with the anticipated salary increase, and his career is put into reverse. The play poses several questions. Was John treated fairly? Did he actually harass Carol, or did she misinterpret the fumbling efforts of a concerned teacher to comfort and encourage her? In the final moments of the play, John discovers that Carol, now being advised by an unnamed group of radical feminists, is planning to press criminal rape charges unless he makes certain concessions to her and the group. He becomes enraged by this and hits her, barely restraining himself from doing her great bodily harm. More difficult questions arise after the final curtain falls.

ANALYSIS: Oleanna was a big 1993 Broadway hit for David Mamet. During a December 1992 appearance at the Dramatists Guild in New York City, he explained the play’s title: “‘Oleanna’ was the title of a song about a utopia of that name in western Pennsylvania, a planned community set up in the post—Civil War period by a Norwegian singer who had made a lot of money and wanted to make a beautiful community for Norwegians to come and live in. His name was Ole and his wife’s name was Anna, so he called it Oleanna. It failed, and everybody went bust. Oleanna is a play about failed utopia, in this case, the failed utopia of academia.” All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Ernest Thompson (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Norman and Ethel have been married for forty-six years and have spent summers at their place on Golden Pond for forty-four of them. This year, however, it is clear that time is catching up with them. Norman, a retired college professor, is almost eighty, is having heart palpitations, and his memory isn’t what it used to be.

Their divorced daughter, Chelsea, arrives with her fiancé and his teenage son, who stays the summer with Norman and Ethel while they go to Europe. Suddenly, the elderly couple have the grandchild they always wanted, and they dote on him. The summer ends all too soon and is accompanied by another scare—Norman has a mild heart attack. These yearly trips to Golden Pond are surely coming to an end.

ANALYSIS: On Golden Pond ran on Broadway in 1979 and was made into a wonderful movie starring Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, and Katharine Hepburn that won several Academy Awards. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Frank D. Gilroy (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Fran and Joe live and work in Las Vegas. She is a dancer at the Tropicana and he is a lounge singer. Both are trying to overcome addictions: Joe to gambling and Fran to Tom Lockwood, a wealthy married man with whom she has carried on a ten-year affair. Joe moves in with Fran, and they form a convenient sexual relationship in which they’re mutually supportive but emotionally undemanding. When Tom shows up unexpectedly and says that he is finally ready to get a divorce and marry Fran, she refuses him because she has fallen in love with Joe—although she won’t say that out loud.

Joe and Fran continue to live together for two more years, each of them keeping their emotional distance, each afraid of deeper commitment. Then, in a touching scene that comes at the end of a traumatic day and night during which Joe starts gambling again, he tells her for the first time that he loves her and asks her to marry him. Fran resists at first but eventually says yes.

ANALYSIS: Although this play feels a lot like a soap opera, it is good for scenework. It was the basis of a 1970 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Steve Tesich (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set in the burned-out, post—civil war landscape of some future time, Al and Angel forge a friendship and make their way toward the Land of the Free. Along the way, they salvage precious paintings and art treasures from gutted churches and museums, goods they hope to use to barter their way into the Land of the Free. When they get there, though, they are informed that, as a price of their admission, they have to assassinate Jesus Christ, who is in the midst of His Second Coming. They can’t bring themselves to do it, so the monk in charge takes care of that and then has the two men executed.

ANALYSIS: This is a dark satire, frequently horrific and always philosophical. It presents some excellent challenging scenes for intelligent, physical actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Shirley Lauro (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Calvin, an eighteen-year-old African-American sophomore in New York State’s university system, reads at a fifth-grade level but consistently gets Bs. When he figures out that he has been promoted from year to year without learning anything, he seeks out Ginny, one of his teachers. She is a well-intentioned, overworked woman with her own personal problems. Both she and Calvin are, in a way, victims of an inflexible educational system, and by the final curtain, they manage to come to a deeper understanding of each other’s situations. In the last scene, Ginny sits down with Calvin and quietly begins to teach him on a level he can grasp, intent on giving him an education at last.

ANALYSIS: A “message” drama with some explosive scenes. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3)


by Lyle Kessler (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Treat, who is streetwise, violent, and continually in trouble with the law, has raised Phillip, his childlike, reclusive younger brother, since their mother’s death. Their father deserted the family long ago. Treat gets by primarily through robbing people and committing petty crimes in North Philadelphia. One night, he brings home Harold, a well-dressed drunk he met in a bar, intent on robbing him. Harold, who turns out also to be an orphan, can’t be restrained, and the next morning takes over the household, becoming something of a father figure.

Harold evidently has a great deal of money, but it comes from murky, unexplained sources, probably from the Chicago underworld. He buys the brothers clothes, encourages the younger one to expand his horizons, teaches him how to read maps so he’ll never be lost again, and hires Treat as his personal bodyguard. Then, during a walk with Treat, some mysterious men from Chicago show up, forcefully take Harold aside, and mortally wound him. He finds his way back to the house and dies, leaving the brothers alone again.

ANALYSIS: This drama has a David Mamet feel to it and plenty of subtext. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Jerry Sterner (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Garfinkle is an investor who wants to take over conservatively run New England Wire and Cable, dismantle it, and sell it off piece by piece. The parts of the company are currently worth more than the stock quote. If he succeeds, of course, a lot of people at the old company are out of a job. This play pits the values of a “green-mailer” against those of an old-fashioned businessman.

ANALYSIS: Well written. Made into a 1991 movie starring Danny DeVito. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Simon Gray (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Simon Hench settles in to listen to his new recording of Wagner’s Parsifal. But before he can begin enjoying it, the upstairs boarder drops by; followed by Simon’s brother, Stephen, who is anxious about a job promotion; and then Simon’s friend, Jeff, who wants to discuss the complications in his love life. In short order, Jeff is followed by Davina, who displays no apparent modesty as she lounges topless while her blouse is drying. Next, Bernard Wood appears to find out whether Simon has in fact seduced his fiancée (he has). Then Simon’s wife, Beth, comes home from a tryst and asks for a divorce. All this happens in about an hour and a half. Simon never does get to listen to Parsifal.

ANALYSIS: Biting, frequently mean comedy. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Luis Santeiro (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Dolores finds an image of the Virgin Mary in a slab of tortilla dough, bringing excitement and notoriety to the New Jersey home she shares with sister, Dahlia, and her sons, Eddy and Nelson. Nelson is embarrassed by the implications of the discovery because his very non-Hispanic college girlfriend is visiting for the weekend. Eddy, on the other hand, wants to exploit the event to make a quick buck. Reporters and miracle-seekers camp out in the front yard.

ANALYSIS: This good-natured comedy, with its cast of appealing Hispanic characters, has been widely produced since it first appeared in 1987. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Three-Person Scenes (2)


by Tina Howe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Artist Margaret (Mags) Church comes home to Boston to paint a portrait of her elderly parents, Fanny and Gardner. Her father is becoming senile, so he and Fanny are packing to move from their large old house into a small, more manageable cottage. Against this background of packing and painting, the three family members come to see each other in new, more respectful terms.

ANALYSIS: This gem is beautifully written. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain any two-character scenes involving the daughter. Fanny does, however, have one lovely monologue. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Philip Barry (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Tracy Lord, of the Philadelphia Lords, married and quickly divorced C. K. Dexter Haven last year, and is going to marry successful, self-made businessman George Kittredge this weekend. A gossip magazine sends a reporter and a female photographer to cover the society wedding, and Tracy winds up in a moonlit romantic encounter with the reporter. The next morning, which is the day of the wedding, everything gets worked out: Tracy and her fiancé decide to call off their marriage, the reporter proposes, Tracy demurs at first, and—surprise of surprises—Tracy remarries Dexter!

ANALYSIS: The moral of this play is that the rich are as decent (or as morally neutral) as the rest of us. This was, of course, a major vehicle for Katharine Hepburn. The Philadelphia Story ran for more than 400 performances on Broadway and, in 1940, was adapted as one of Hollywood’s most famous comedies. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by August Wilson (Plume Drama)

SYNOPSIS: The action is set in Pittsburgh, 1936. Boy Willie wants to buy the land down south that his ancestors used to work as slaves, but he needs first to sell the old, ornately carved family piano to raise the initial investment. But Boy Willie’s sister, Berniece, has possession of the instrument and won’t hear of selling it. She points out that there is too much family history in those carvings, and that if you don’t have history, you don’t have anything.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. Beautifully written. Entire cast is African-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (4)


by William Inge (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: It is Labor Day weekend in a small Kansas town. The action takes place in the joint backyards of two widows whose families and boarders are all female. Hal Carter, a handsome, earthy drifter, wanders into this environment and sweeps Madge Owens off her feet. Suddenly, Madge’s picture-perfect life, complete with plans to marry the town’s most eligible bachelor, is turned upside down; at the final curtain, she leaves home to follow Hal into an uncertain future. Against the same background, spinster schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney finally succeeds in getting Howard Bevens to agree to marry her.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and later adapted for a movie starring William Holden and Kim Novak, this play is romantic and poetic. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Martin McDonagh (Faber and Faber)

SYNOPSIS: Set in an unnamed Eastern European totalitarian state, this play evokes the terrifying feeling of walking into a dark and unknown room. The given circumstances are that a man named Katurian has been arrested because the stories he writes may be the basis for copycat crimes, particularly the murder of young children. The sadistic authorities have also arrested Michal, Katurian’s dim-witted brother, and have him in a room down the hall. In the end, we learn that Michal is the one that committed the child-murders; or maybe not.

ANALYSIS: This is violent, difficult, profane material that is only appropriate for advanced actors. The playwright is Irish, and the script has been written in an Irish—or British—vernacular. You should, however, easily be able to convert it to standard American speech. I have attempted to break down a few of the very long scenes into segments that would be manageable for a scene-study workshop.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (4)


by Darlene Craviotto (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Julie and Alice are frustrated by their careers and romantic lives. In a moment of misguided impulse, they decide to pick a man, any man, and rape him. They select the pizza-delivery guy as a good victim and begin an awkward seduction. When that doesn’t work, Julie and Alice turn more violent, tying up the man. Finally, after much back-and-forth discussion about power and the respective options for men and women in this world, the women release the man unharmed.

ANALYSIS: Rape is a rough subject matter on which to build a comedy, and Darlene Craviotto’s effort might not be fully justified. Still, she has created some interesting possibilities for scenework, and the larger issues about violence and power are worth examining on their own merits. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Joanna M. Glass (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The sad plot of Play Memory is offset by a deft, frequently humorous, and skillful theatrical presentation. A family in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1944 is torn apart by the husband’s stubborn refusal to rebuild his life after he is betrayed by three friends. He goes into an alcoholic decline for ten years, moving steadily from prosperity to poverty, and dragging his wife, Ruth, and their young daughter, Jean, with him. The relentless descent finally ends when Ruth and Jean leave the husband in 1955, moving to a safe, nonviolent home. After they go, he trades in the kitchen stove for more liquor, locks the front door, and proceeds to drink himself to death. The women become adult survivors. This play, which is about memory, is told in flashback sequences. So when the audience first meets Ruth and Jean, they’ve developed a sense of humor about their lives.

ANALYSIS: Hal Prince’s 1984 production was nominated for a Tony. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Jeffrey Sweet (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Amy has traveled from New York City to her small Midwestern hometown to be with her widower father while he undergoes exploratory surgery. Their conversation on the front porch of the old house quickly exposes the reasons she has stayed away all these years. Amy is a disappointment to her father. He reflects on the untimely death of his only son ten years earlier and voices regret that Amy won’t carry on the small family business or have children.

Then Sam, Amy’s high-school flame, drops by unexpectedly. As she quickly surmises, her father arranged this get-together in the hope that those long-cold sparks might fly again, resulting in perhaps a grandchild for him. Even though Sam still has feelings for Amy, she has no interest in taking up with him again. Furthermore, Amy still believes that her decision to have an abortion after Sam made her pregnant while they were in school was the right one.

ANALYSIS: Jeffrey Sweet writes engaging dialogue, with plenty of emotional subtext. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Craig Lucas (Broadway Play Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: A very old man, living out the final chapter of his life and distressed by the recent death of his wife, happens upon Rita and Peter’s wedding. The man joins the festivities, kisses Rita, and magically, his spirit moves into her body, and her spirit into his. Peter then goes on his honeymoon with the woman who looks like Rita but who is suddenly behaving like the old man. By the time they return home, Peter has figured out that a switch has taken place. So he orchestrates another meeting between Rita and the old man, hoping that the transformation can be reversed. Success! Their spirits are switched back, and the young couple begins their marriage all over again. The old man, meanwhile, faces his mortality with dignity.

ANALYSIS: The reversal-of-bodies theatrical device is one of the most unusual you’ll ever encounter. Having a young woman’s personality in an old man’s body, and vice versa, leads to some charming and funny encounters. Most scenes are quite short. Nominated for a Tony in 1990 and turned into a 1992 movie starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Israel Horovitz (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Debbie Wastba attempts to teach English as a second language to a roomful of adult students who not only don’t understand a word she is saying, but also don’t understand each other. Members of the class include a Polish man, an Italian man, a Frenchman, a German man, a Chinese woman, and a Japanese woman. Only Wastba speaks English, and her modus operandi is to teach English by “total immersion.” This means that she refuses to speak any language except English to her students. The result: a comedy based on confusion.

ANALYSIS: This play is actually a comment on the insensitivity of Americans to other cultures. Hysterically funny, but unfortunately without scene possibilities. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Neil Simon (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Mel is having a midlife crisis. He has high blood pressure; takes Valium to relax; hates living in New York City with its endless labor strikes, irate neighbors, and general hassles; and hates the small, overpriced apartment on Second Avenue that he shares with his wife, Edna. When Mel gets laid off from his job at a big ad agency, he can’t find another job, and suffers a nervous breakdown. Expensive therapy doesn’t help him recover, nor do well-intentioned visits from his brother and sisters. Edna takes a job, but then she too is fired. Finally, Mel decides to fight back against the system, to no longer be a victim. At the final curtain, the audience knows that he and Edna will survive, but they still seem beleaguered.

ANALYSIS: An in-your-face, one-liner, zinger comedy that hangs on a simplistic plot. In other words, vintage Neil Simon. It is good material for actors who want to work on comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Noel Coward (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Elyot and Sybil are on their honeymoon in the south of France. The terrace of their hotel room overlooks the water, and moonlight pours in—the perfect picture of bliss. Then Elyot discovers that his ex-wife, Amanda, and her new husband are honeymooning in the adjacent hotel room. Naturally, all hell breaks loose. Amanda and Elyot fall into one another’s arms, admitting that they never should have broken up in the first place. They unceremoniously abandon their respective new spouses and head for Paris and an even-more-romantic reunion. For a while it is touch-and-go, with Elyot and Amanda reverting to their former love/hate relationship. Then their respective ex-newlywed spouses show up in Paris, and all hell breaks loose all over again. In the end, however, Elyot and Amanda decide to stay together forever.

ANALYSIS: Noel Coward is at his best in this honey of a comedy, which is routinely revived for Broadway productions. He and Gertrude Lawrence became the toast of two continents for their portrayals of Elyot and Amanda. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4)


by José Rivera (Broadway Play Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: Set in the backyard of Guzman’s working-class home in Patchogue, New York, the central events in this delightfully theatrical play involve Lilia’s wedding to a man she doesn’t love and her father’s commitment to winning independence for Puerto Rico. Mainly, however, The Promise is a mélange, mixing pageantry, magic, superstition, possession by spirits, and religion; the playwright refers to this style as “magical realism.”

ANALYSIS: A striking work by an increasingly important playwright, The Promise unfortunately contains no scenework. Two monologues, however, are excellent for workshops. All characters are Hispanic. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by David Auburn (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Catherine, twenty-five-years old today, has spent the last several years caring full time for her brilliant but unstable mathematician father, Robert. Now she must bury him and come to terms with her own demons. Has she inherited his genius for mathematics? Has she inherited his emotional fragility? Basically, this is the setup of Proof, with Catherine being courted by Hal, one of her father’s former students, while simultaneously being pressed by her estranged sister to abandon the old family house and move to New York. Hal discovers a complicated proof in an upstairs desk, and Catherine claims authorship. At first he disbelieves that she would be capable of such an accomplishment, figuring the proof was really written by her father. But in the end, we learn that it is true. She is the author.

ANALYSIS: This extraordinarily well-written play makes the world of higher mathematics almost user-friendly. The structure of the play is as complicated as a mathematical equation itself, bouncing back and forth in time and into and out of dreams. Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Anton Chekhov (The Sneeze: Plays and Stories by Anton Chekhov, translated and adapted by Michael Frayn, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Lomov has finally gotten up enough nerve to ask Natalya Stepanovna to marry him. He puts on his finest suit and makes the trip to the neighboring farm that she lives on. Alone with his beloved, Lomov begins his proposal with an itemized list of his financial assets, primary among which is Ox Lea Meadows, the property where he lives. Natalya points out that the property isn’t really his; in fact, it belongs to her family. He begs to differ and, before you know it, they’re involved in an argument and the proposal is no longer on the table.

Natalya’s father enters and joins the fray, at which time Lomov storms out. Everybody calms down, and Lomov comes back to try again. This time, however, he and Natalya start arguing about who has the better hunting dog. Finally, Lomov faints dead away from the sheer anxiety of it all. This alarms the father, who presumes that Lomov is actually dead. Suddenly, Lomov revives and, before anything else can go wrong, Natalya’s father urges the disoriented lovers to make the leap into marriage. They kiss. Curtain.

ANALYSIS: If anybody thinks that Anton Chekhov can’t be funny, he needs to read this hysterical one-act play. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by James Kirkwood (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Vito, a bisexual burglar with a good sense of humor, breaks into Jimmy’s Greenwich Village apartment on New Year’s Eve—the very night that Jimmy’s girlfriend, Kate, has chosen to leave him. Surprised by Kate and Jimmy’s return to the apartment, Vito hides under the bed and eavesdrops on their problems. All of this is the setup for the two men to get to know one another. Jimmy winds up capturing Vito and tying him up. By the final curtain, they have become friends and potential lovers.

ANALYSIS: This very offbeat comedy is quite black at times. Playwright James Kirkwood says that it is “a play about two losers who meet at a certain crucial time in their lives. Will they help each other?” Sal Mineo’s final performance was his portrayal of Vito. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by N. Richard Nash (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A con man named Starbuck arrives in a drought-stricken western town one August and promises to make it rain. The Curry family pays him one hundred dollars to do just that and, within the next twenty-four hours, he makes believers of everyone. In the process, Starbuck teaches the Currys’ plain daughter, Lizzie, to believe in herself. This new relationship also deeply affects Starbuck, and after a single night of lovemaking, he admits to Lizzie that he is a con artist.

ANALYSIS: A wonderful 1954 romantic comedy. The roles are bold and colorful; the play, an actor’s delight, was turned into a star movie vehicle for Burt Lancaster. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1)


by Lorraine Hansberry (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Big Walter Younger worked hard all his life to keep his insurance premiums paid, and now that he is dead, the members of his family are torn about how to spend the $10,000 payout. This was a significant amount of money in 1958. Walter Lee, Big Walter’s son, sees himself becoming a big businessman by investing the money in a liquor store. Mama, Big Walter’s widow, would rather escape the Chicago ghetto by making a down payment on a nice home somewhere. With the money left over, she wants to pay for daughter Beneatha’s college education. Walter Lee’s wife, Ruth, favors getting the house, primarily so that their son, Travis, can have a better life. Beneatha wants the money to go toward her education so that she can serve humanity by becoming a doctor.

After acrimonious debate, Mama secretly makes a down payment on a house in a white neighborhood. When Walter Lee finds out what she has done, he drinks himself into a stupor. Seeing his reaction, Mama has misgivings about her actions and entrusts the rest of the money to him. She tells him to go ahead and buy the liquor store, but to be sure to save part of the money for Beneatha. Walter gives the money to his would-be partner, who promptly skips town with it. Just as suddenly as the money appeared, it is gone. The only part the family still has is the amount used for the down payment on the house.

Enter Karl Lindner, a representative from the white community in which the house is located. He offers the Youngers a bribe not to move into his neighborhood. At first Walter Lee is tempted to accept the bribe, but when the family unites against the offer, he stands up to Karl, telling him that the Youngers will move in anyway.

ANALYSIS: A Raisin in the Sun, the first Broadway play written by an African-American woman, was also the first to be directed by an African-American man, Lloyd Richards. It won the 1959 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play and was made into a movie with Sidney Poitier, who also portrayed Walter Lee on stage. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1), Male Monologues (3)


by John Patrick Shanley (Welcome to the Moon and Other Plays, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Although seventeen-year-old John is at a festive party, he still feels lonely. He goes outside to sit in the light of the full moon. Mary, who is sixteen, arrives, and they talk. Their conversation quickly becomes an exultant declaration of mutual love.

ANALYSIS: John Patrick Shanley is arguably best known as the author of the 1987 film comedy Moonstruck, and the same kind of lunar magic is at work here. Very innocent. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by David Mamet (Reunion and Dark Pony, Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: A father and daughter reunite after a twenty-year separation. During this mostly quiet and tentatively probing conversation, which takes place in Bernie’s apartment, they try to fill in the blanks. He is no longer drinking, but alcoholism has taken a terrible toll on his life; Carol is married to a man who has two children from an earlier marriage. Bernie regrets missing his brother’s funeral, and Carol is close to her half-sister. Bernie has settled into a blue-collar restaurant job and is about to remarry; Carol smokes too much, and her sex life isn’t great.

ANALYSIS: This is an early David Mamet work that demonstrates his keen ear for the flow of dialogue and negotiation within a scene. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Arthur Kopit (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Arthur Kopit extends satire to its grotesque extreme as he takes audiences into a world where a common locker-room vulgarity (“I’d give my left ball for a piece of that deal.”) becomes the literal price of doing business in Hollywood. Al and Lou, former producer/partners, reunite to produce the filmed autobiography of rock’s biggest female star, Nirvana (who is a ringer for Madonna). What Jerry doesn’t know is that Nirvana’s loyalty test—and her price for anchoring the deal—is whether or not he’ll give up a testicle, or preferably both of them. Al, as it turns out, gave her one of his just to get the option, which is actually a recopied, erotic version of Melville’s Moby Dick.

ANALYSIS: With this plot, Arthur Kopit was courting censorship trouble from the start, and he got it. Road to Nirvana has been greeted with diverse reactions from protest to praise wherever it has played. Kopit is a serious and consistent contributor to American theater and is arguably one of America’s finest playwrights. Be warned that every scene in this play contains graphic images and plenty of vulgarity. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (3)


by Tom Stoppard (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Turning Hamlet upside down, Tom Stoppard has made stars of two minor characters and made supporting players of the lead roles Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes, and the rest. Most of the time, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don’t know where they are or why they are there. All they understand is that they were “sent for” because they are Hamlet’s old school chums. After the players act out The Murder of Gonzago and Hamlet kills Polonius, the hapless pair escort him to England, where presumably he will be executed. Then they discover that the letter they’re carrying to the King of England demands their own immediate execution. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don’t realize that Hamlet has switched it in order to escape his own death. The events are all predetermined, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have no say in the matter.

ANALYSIS: Clever is too modest a word for this 1967 delight, which immediately placed Tom Stoppard on the map as a major talent. The philosophical premise of the play is best summed up by one of the players: “Uncertainty is the normal state.” All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (2), Male Monologues (2)


by Elan Garonzik (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The drama opens in 1894 on a Pennsylvania farm as four sisters are about to depart for England and Uncle Jacob’s inheritance rather than follow the popular western migration. In nineteen short scenes, the action covers the preceding years and finally returns to the farm in 1894. Along the way, the women fall in love, decide whether or not to pursue careers, and have children. When Uncle Jacob dies, leaving them a fortune in British textile mills, they head for the boat.

ANALYSIS: Innocent, earnest dialogue and scenes.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by A. R. Gurney, Jr. (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Spanning the years from 1930 to 1970, the play tracks generational changes in an upper-class WASP family in Buffalo, New York. Most of the scenes are very short and flow into one another, with actors playing multiple roles.

ANALYSIS: A. R. Gurney takes potshots at hypocritical attitudes and behavior in America in this breezy offering, which is really a series of unrelated scenes from American life brought together under a single title. As always, he is a master when it comes to writing dialogue. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by Anton Chekhov (a new version by Jean-Claude Van Itallie, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Playwright Anton Chekhov described The Seagull as “a comedy with three female parts, six male, a landscape, much talk about literature, little action, and tons of love.” A modern reader will have difficulty understanding how this play (in which Konstantine, one of the central characters, commits suicide) could be called a comedy at all. Indeed, nothing seems to encourage laughter. It is important to understand that this comedy revolves around posturing—it is really a study of tedious people who don’t know they are being tedious.

ANALYSIS: First produced in 1889, The Seagull made both Anton Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theatre famous. It was his first attempt at a play of “indirect action,” in which the psychology of the characters takes precedence over the action. The complex characters were the perfect vehicle for Stanislavsky’s new acting techniques, which were designed to find “inner truth, the truth of feeling and experience.” All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Edward J. Moore (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Gertrude Blum is the owner/proprietor of The Sea Horse, a smalltown saloon on the California coast. It is a rough place, catering to seamen only—not to their women. Gertrude herself is a physically big woman, weighing some 200 pounds, fat but firm. She runs the bar with an iron hand, laughing and cussing with the best of them and taking the occasional favorite upstairs for the night. For the past year, she has been sharing her bed with one Harry Bales whenever he is in port. Harry has come to adore her and wants to marry her, but Gertrude is not big on true intimacy. The play explores their evolving relationship and their attempts to grow closer.

ANALYSIS: Originally written as an exercise in Uta Hagen’s New York City acting class, The Sea Horse went on to be published, and Edward Moore won the 1974 Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Playwright. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by David Mamet (Sexual Perversity in Chicago and the Duck Variations, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A fast-moving one-act play that explores the deceits of the dating game. Danny and Bernard are very much “into” women, but their approaches toward them are radically different. Danny, an assistant office manager, is a nice guy who treats women with respect, while his buddy and co-worker Bernard thinks the way to women’s hearts is to “treat ’em like shit.”

The action of the play takes place over a couple of months, during which the men are dating two roommates, Joan and Deborah. Bernard may think he is hip and that he knows all the moves, but it is nice-guy Danny who winds up connecting, if only for a brief moment of intimacy, with Deborah. In the end, the men return to girl-watching, while the women continue as roommates.

ANALYSIS: This early comic work by Mamet has plenty of rough language, mainly because he is holding up sexual stereotypes for ridicule. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Michael Cristofer (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The action occurs in three cottages on the grounds of a large hospital in California. Terminally ill patients are allowed to use the cottages for visits with their families. Joe is using Cottage Number One to spend some time with his wife and fourteen-year-old son. Brian is living with his lover, Mark, in Cottage Number Two and receives an unexpected visit from his ex-wife. Felicity and her daughter are in Cottage Number Three. The play explores the complex relationships that become more complex—or simpler—as death approaches.

ANALYSIS: This beautiful drama won both the 1977 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Best Play. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (3)


by Neil Labute (Faber and Faber)

SYNOPSIS: Evelyn concocts the ultimate college thesis project. She will turn an unsuspecting person into a work of art. “Can I install x-amount of change in this creature,” she asks, “using only manipulation as my palette knife?” Her project of course plays havoc with the minds and emotions of the people around her, who have no idea what she is up to.

ANALYSIS: Neil Labute wants to explore the parameters of art and love in this provocative play. The plot is appropriately outrageous and can be fun for sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Willy Russell (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Shirley Valentine, a forty-two-year-old Liverpool housewife with two grown children and a complacent husband, goes on an impulsive fortnight vacation in sun-drenched Greece, has a romance with a Zorba-like tavern owner, and decides not to return home. In the process, she takes stock of her life, marriage, and unrealized dreams.

ANALYSIS: Shirley is the only character in this insightful and touching comedy. Shirley Valentine won England’s Olivier Award for Best Comedy, and Pauline Collins won a Tony for Best Actress during the Broadway run. Written in the British vernacular. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2)


by William Mastrosimone (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Chandler is a hemophiliac living in seclusion, protected from the world by his domineering mother. Shivaree, a southern belly dancer, sublets an apartment in the building across the way and strikes up a relationship with Chandler, much to his mother’s chagrin.

ANALYSIS: The very talented Mastrosimone must have been in a strange state of mind when he wrote this odd comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Donald Margulies (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: On the occasion of his first major exhibit outside of North America, artist Jonathan Waxman looks up his former lover, Patricia, who is now married and living with her archaeologist husband, Nick, in Norfolk, England. Although fifteen years have passed, Jonathan finds that Patricia is still smarting from the way he dropped her, and that Nick has no use for him at all, professionally or personally. Jonathan’s visit with Patricia provides a platform for revisiting their early days together, going over the reasons they broke up, including the incompatibility between his Jewish heritage and her Gentile background. Jonathan is also forced to defend his artistic integrity and financial success when attacked by Nick and, later at the exhibit, by a German art critic/interviewer.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 1992 Obie Award for Best New American Play, Sight Unseen works on several levels and is structurally very clever. It is a broad, intellectual debate about the merits of art, set against a background of a failed love affair and mixed with questions about Jewish assimilation. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Robert Anderson (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Katherine and John first meet in a New England inn on Christmas Eve when they discover that they occupy adjoining rooms. She is distressed because her husband, who is in England on a business trip, has been having affairs. John is sad because his wife has been institutionalized for insanity for the past five years. Both of them are lonely, needing to be held and loved, and near dawn they finally give in to this yearning. The next day, Katherine leaves for England with her son, and John returns to the vigil he keeps with his wife. Surprisingly, she is under a temporary spell of lucidity. It is Christmas Day.

ANALYSIS: In the end, this lovely play, which starred Henry Fonda, evokes a poetic, adult mood. The main characters are the kind of vaguely well-off, educated people that seem to populate a number of plays from the 1950s. Audiences get a sense that the characters spend a great deal of time gazing reflectively out a picture window at the freshly fallen snow as they sip a Scotch and water. Robert Anderson is a wonderful writer. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The title of this play says it all. Sister Mary Ignatius, a Catholic nun, lectures the audience on the pros, cons, and history of the world from a Catholic perspective. Some of her former students appear to talk about how the nun’s teachings have affected them, but the focus of the play is the Sister’s lectures.

ANALYSIS: Wonderful one-act satire of Catholicism. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by John Guare (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Paul, a young, charming African-American man, maneuvers his way into the lives of Louisa and Flanders Kittredge and two other high-living, white New York families, each time masquerading as the son of famous actor Sidney Poitier. In each case, once Paul’s deception is discovered and he has disappeared, no one can figure out what possible motive he could have had for carrying out such a charade because he didn’t steal any valuable property. The mystery deepens when Paul befriends Rick and Elizabeth, a couple of aspiring actors, this time pretending to be Flanders Kittredge’s illegitimate son.

In short order, Paul seduces Rick, who has never before had a homosexual experience, and cons him out of all the money he and Elizabeth have saved: $250. When Rick realizes he has been duped, he commits suicide. After Paul’s escapades show up in a newspaper article, he telephones the Kittredge residence, claiming remorse and saying that he wants to go straight. Even more, he wants Flanders to be his mentor, training him to buy and sell fine art. Louisa and Flanders agree to help Paul, but when they go to meet him at a prearranged location he isn’t there. They never see him again.

ANALYSIS: This clever, fast-moving comedy-drama is crammed with metaphor, ultimately becoming a comment on identity, pretension, and America’s supposed classless society. The plot is presented in flashback, narrated by Louisa and Flanders, one quick scene melding into another on an open stage. Playwright John Guare based the work on an actual New York incident in which a young man pretended to be Sidney Poitier’s son.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Lewis John Carlino (Cages, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Connie is a prostitute, so she presumes that John wants to have sex when he shows up at her shabby hotel room on the Lower East Side at 4 A.M. Soon, however, she discovers that he longs for more than that. John wants true romance and affection, and he expects her to reenact the first meeting he had years ago with the only woman he ever loved. Connie resists this charade, drinking heavily as he continues to elaborately set the stage. Finally, the fantasy falls apart as she turns on John, demanding that he honor her memory of the first time she was in love. He then begins to reenact her fantasy.

ANALYSIS: A poetic, frequently moving one-act drama. Good material for sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologue (1)


William Inge (Eleven Short Plays by William Inge, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Randy and Carole, two up-and-coming Hollywood actors, consider it imperative that they be “seen” at the funeral of a recently deceased famous movie star even though they didn’t care overmuch about him. As the play begins, they are extremely frustrated, having been up all night trying to figure out how to get an invite. When it appears that the situation is just impossible, they discover that their hotel maid has been invited. They use double-talk to get the sweet woman to let them go to the funeral with her.

ANALYSIS: A delightful trifle, all of ten pages long, from William Inge. Actors will recognize that the pretensions of would-be stars are timeless. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Peter Parnell (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Stephen loves Christine, and Christine loves Stephen. Christine also loves William, Stephen’s best friend. In the end, Christine marries William, leaving Stephen to read Balzac instead of Goethe. All characters are contemporary, upwardly mobile, educated, witty New Yorkers.

ANALYSIS: Sweet comedy. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by David Mamet (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Bobby Gould, the head of production for a big Hollywood movie studio, listens favorably to a pitch his longtime friend Charlie Fox is making. The proposed movie, designed for hot star Doug Brown, is sure to make money. Also on Bobby’s desk is a book by a serious East Coast writer that deals with radiation, the end of civilization, and eroding values. He gives the radiation book to Karen, his sexy temp, to read, asking for her private and personal recommendation. (Actually, Bobby just wants to sleep with her. Surprise, surprise.) She reads it and convinces Bobby to give the green light to the radiation book rather than to the Doug Brown project. Karen then sleeps with Bobby. Charlie flips out when he discovers his pet project has been killed. After a violent confrontation with Bobby and a scene with Karen, the projects revert again. At the end, Karen is out, and Charlie is back in with the Doug Brown vehicle.

ANALYSIS: It seems like every playwright has to do his own send-up of crazy Hollywood values. This is David Mamet’s attempt. Well written, of course. All levels.

Mamet, in a 1993 talk at the Dramatists Guild, said, “Speed-the-Plow was the title of a four-hundred-year-old play by Thomas Middleton, and it was also a motto written on English barns and displayed on English cups. It’s also in a poem that ends, ‘God speed the plow/Good health and success to the farmer.’ In other words, may God speed—help—the farmer. It’s about work. That’s why I chose the title.”

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Rebecca Gilman (Dramatic Publishing)

SYNOPSIS: An African-American freshman student at Belmont College in Vermont begins to receive hate mail, driving the school administration and student body into shock and self-assessment. At the center of the maelstrom is the dean of students, Sarah Daniels, who comes to acknowledge her own racism.

ANALYSIS: This is an issue play that explores how latent racism can exist even among people who consider themselves to be liberal and open-minded. It also explores the traps inherent in political correctness. Very well written.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4)


by William Inge (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Deanie Loomis and Bud Stamper are young lovers whose passions and ambitions are thwarted continually by the prejudices and ignorance of their elders. The action takes place in a small oil-boom town in Kansas during the 1920s.

ANALYSIS: William Inge’s popular screenplay makes it to the stage. There is a bang-up scene between Bud and his father, Ace. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Dennis McIntyre (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Val Johnson is an African-American cop in New York City. When a white car thief he has captured begins to spew racial epithets, Val snaps and kills the man, shooting him cleanly through the heart. Then, realizing what he has done, he restages the event to make it look like a case of self-defense. Subsequently, Val has confrontations with his wife, who urges him to continue with the deception rather than risk jail; his father, a retired cop, who wants him to tell the truth; his buddy, who confesses that he also once killed a man in cold blood; and the investigating officer, who knows Val is lying but can’t prove it. At the official hearing (and on the very last page of the script), Val hesitates only briefly, considers changing his story, and then stands by his lie.

ANALYSIS: Though the basic dramatic situation is contrived, this drama has some powerful scenes. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (2)


by Michael Weller (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Set in the mid-1950s in New York City, the action in this play centers on sixteen-year-old Martin’s efforts to orchestrate a reconciliation between his parents, who have been separated for ten years. Before World War II, Elise and Andrew were part of the very active political left, so when he joined the Army and went off to fight, Elise felt betrayed and abandoned. When Andrew returned, he was a changed man in her eyes and part of “the system.” She then left with their young son to follow a bohemian way of life. Since then, Andrew has bounced from one vocational pursuit to another, making a pretty good living and getting by with low-commitment romantic relationships. Martin manages to get his parents together at a party, but the meeting turns disastrous. These two ships will continue to pass in the night.

ANALYSIS: This 1989 drama might surprise you. We don’t have a lot of material that is set in the politically confused 1950s, and Michael Weller has a keen ear for realistic dialogue. Excellent material for scenework. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (1), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Robert Harling (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie is the prettiest young woman in Chinquapin, Louisiana. She marries the most eligible young man around, and her life would be perfect if she didn’t have diabetes. Against her doctor’s advice, Shelby has a baby; a short while later, her body begins to fail. Ultimately, she has to have a kidney transplant, and her own mother is the donor. The operation is unsuccessful, and Shelby dies. This is the core plotline.

ANALYSIS: This comedy is set in the town beauty parlor and is chock-full of southern humor and wisdom, as well as several stereotypical southern women. This work by actor/writer Robert Harling was later made into a successful big-budget movie starring Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Darryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, and Tom Skerritt. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Emily Mann (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This play was based on actual conversations the playwright had with survivors of the Vietnam War. The actors individually address the audience directly, telling overlapping stories about the war and its effect on them. The playwright attempts to connect the violence of the war with violence in our society. Cheryl and Mark are married, and Nadine is his mistress.

ANALYSIS: Many of the Vietnam-era plays feel dated now in the twenty-first century, but there is something lasting about this one. Somehow, I can foresee the same kinds of reactions coming out of the United States’s Middle Eastern military ventures. Extremely well written. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Steve Metcalfe (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Megs and Dave were in Vietnam together and share a deep secret. One day when they were to be dropped by helicopter into a battle, Dave froze in terror, jumped badly, and broke both ankles. Megs was hit by enemy fire when he jumped. Their buddy Bobby came to their aid and was killed. Both men still feel guilty. While Dave has become an alcoholic, Megs has dealt better with his guilt, coming to terms with himself, Bobby, and the war.

One day, years after the war has ended, Megs unexpectedly shows up at the house Dave shares with his sister Martha, explaining that he and Dave have a long-standing date to go fishing. Martha and Megs are immediately attracted to each other, and Dave just wishes Megs would go away. They work everything out, however, and at the final curtain, the audience knows that Dave will finally emerge from the shadow of his nightmares and that Megs and Martha will be together romantically.

ANALYSIS: One of the better post-Vietnam dramas. It was made into a movie called Jackknife starring Robert DeNiro, Kathy Baker, and Ed Harris.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2) Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Tennessee Williams (The Theatre of Tennessee Williams, Volume 6; New Directions)

SYNOPSIS: A man, referred to throughout the play as “The Little Man,” takes a room in a seedy rooming house in the Midwest, where the lonely landlady wants him to satisfy her sexually because her husband is an invalid. The man forms a closer bond, however, with a cat left behind by the last boarder. A few months after moving in, the man has a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized. When he gets out, he discovers that the woman has rented his room to a new man and, much worse, gotten rid of the cat.

ANALYSIS: An early, thoroughly odd one-act play from Tennessee Williams. Very interesting seduction scene, though. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: An aging Blanche DuBois, having lost the family plantation and all her money, arrives in the French Quarter of New Orleans to visit her younger sister, Stella, who is pregnant and happily married to a crude and forceful working-class lug named Stanley Kowalski. Hiding her destitution and the details of her sexually sordid past behind a false-happy facade and illusions of southern gentility, Blanche immediately has conflicts with Stanley, who sees through her pretensions. She is simultaneously horrified by and attracted to his base manners and animal magnetism, while her false airs and deceits repulse Stanley.

Blanche then sees a last hope for emotional refuge in Stanley’s good-hearted co-worker Harold Mitchell, and sets about seducing the bachelor. Mitch falls hard for Blanche and speaks of marriage but, before that can happen, Stanley unravels the truth about her sexual past. This disclosure destroys her relationship with Mitch and catapults her into an emotional breakdown. After a final confrontation with Stanley that turns violently sexual, Blanche retreats totally into her fantasy life and must be institutionalized.

ANALYSIS: Tennessee Williams’s crown jewel, the best of the best, the play that made Marlon Brando a star. Winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Frank D. Gilroy (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Timmy returns to the Bronx apartment where he grew up and where his parents still live. The folks are glad to see him and are grateful that he wasn’t killed or injured as so many other soldiers were, so they launch into a round of family parties, dinners out, and visits with relatives. On the surface, the play is the perfect picture of a happy family reunion, but old currents run strong and deadly underneath. Timmy’s father, John, is an emotionally distant, penny-pinching, self-made man who exists in a sexless marriage. Nettie, Timmy’s mother, is a long-suffering woman whose affection is reserved for her own mother and her cousin. Both parents continually struggle for their son’s loyalty. Over the course of the first weekend at home, all of this erupts, culminating in an honest acknowledgment of love and Timmy’s decision to move out on his own.

ANALYSIS: This 1964 drama is a dandy. Martin Sheen rose to stardom after playing the son in the 1965 Broadway production, which won a Tony Award for Best Play. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Jon Robin Baitz (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Isaac Geldhart, a refugee of Nazi-occupied Europe, owns a publishing house in New York City, printing “serious” literary works. Increasingly out of step with the public’s fast-food tastes, Kreeger/Geldhart Publishers is on the verge of bankruptcy when Isaac’s children pool their stock in order to take control and publish more popular books. Their takeover is successful and Isaac is forced into retirement.

In the second act, which takes place several years after Isaac has retired, he has to face the prospect of being committed to an institution by his children. A social worker arrives, and he must convince her that he is sane.

ANALYSIS: Urban, caustic drama from a very bright young playwright. The characters tear at each other with literary references. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set in Mississippi during the early 1900s. Alma, the town minister’s prim and proper daughter, has always loved John, the womanizing, hell-raising son of the local doctor, but she has never declared or acted on her feelings. John goes away to college, returning with a medical degree and still intent on sowing wild oats and having fun. Ultimately, he is transformed into a caring and talented physician, partly because of Alma’s example and partly because his irresponsibility contributes to his father’s death. Alma finally decides that her lifestyle of fanatical purity isn’t healthy, declares her love to John, and agrees to go to bed with him, but it is too late. He already has plans to marry Nellie, a sweet, practical, carefree local woman, formerly one of Alma’s piano students. This turn of events changes Alma’s life forever.

ANALYSIS: A Tennessee Williams classic that pits soul against body. Alma is smoke, while John is the heat of summer. See also The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, which is Williams’s later revision of Summer and Smoke. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by William Inge (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: This 1962 work is the final revised edition of William Inge’s successful play Picnic. Set in Kansas, this is the exact same story about Madge and her romance with Hal, a handsome rogue. The only difference between Summer Brave and Picnic is that this later play is a bit more cinematic in style.

ANALYSIS: William Inge, like Tennessee Williams, enjoyed tinkering with his plays long after they were produced. In the case of Summer Brave, Inge was clearly influenced by the film adaptation of his original play and tried to incorporate some of the elements that he thought worked in the movie. However, he was only moderately successful. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)


by David Ives (All in the Timing: Six One-Act Comedies by David Ives, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Bill and Betty meet in a café and fall in love. What makes this scene so delicious to play is the inclusion of an offstage bell-ringer. Every time Bill or Betty makes a false start, a gaffe, or a faux pas, the offstage bell rings. They do not acknowledge the sound of the bell, but every time it rings, it causes them to back up and start again.

ANALYSIS: Make sure you get somebody sharp to ring the bell offstage. And make sure the bell is loud enough to be heard by the audience. Keep the pace brisk.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Anton Chekhov (The Sneeze: Plays and Stories by Anton Chekhov, translated by Michael Frayn, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The acting company has left the theater for the evening when Svetlovidov, an elderly comic actor, wakes from a nap and walks out onto the stage. The only other person remaining in the building is the prompter. The two men discuss the life of an actor.

ANALYSIS: One of Anton Chekhov’s first popular successes in the theater, adapted from one of his own short stories, “Calchas.” Charming and ultimately moving. Like all of Michael Frayn’s adaptations of Chekhov, this is glorious. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2)


by Tennessee Williams (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Chance Wayne still has his chorus-line good looks even though he is in his late twenties. The aspiring actor and sometime gigolo arrives in his hometown of St. Cloud as the “escort” of Princess Kosmonopolis, better known to the world as the aging actress Alexandra Del Lago. Chance plans to parlay Alexandra’s Hollywood influence into important introductions out west and a ticket out of Louisiana for his true and only love, Heavenly Finley. But her father, a corrupt segregationist politician, has put word out to kill or castrate Chance if he is caught because he infected Heavenly with a venereal disease during an earlier visit.

Although time has passed by most of the characters in this play, they continue to grasp for success. It is too late for Chance to be a star, too late for Alexandra to make a true comeback, and too late for Heavenly to have children or happiness. For all of them, the sweet bird of youth has flown away. At the end of the play, Chance refuses to run any more. He stands awaiting castration at the hands of Boss Finley’s henchmen as Alexandra departs for Hollywood.

ANALYSIS: Despite some structural weaknesses, primarily the fact that Alexandra barely appears in the second act at all, the play drew kudos from the critics and has become a staple of American theater. The original 1960 Broadway production starred Paul Newman as Chance Wayne and Geraldine Page as Alexandra. Bruce Dern made his Broadway debut in a small role. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by A. R. Gurney, Jr. (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Greg is facing a midlife crisis, questioning the value of his job and his marriage, when he brings home a stray dog he found in New York City’s Central Park. His relationship with the dog (Sylvia) develops to the point where it becomes a threat to his marriage with Kate. In the end, however, the three of them live happily ever after.

ANALYSIS: Sylvia is what you would call a gimmick play, the trick being that an actress plays the role of a talking dog. It is the kind of idea that would normally make one roll one’s eyes, but as written by master playwright A. R. Gurney, the story has plenty of charm.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2)


by Richard Greenberg (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Darren Lemming is an immensely popular, highly paid star center-fielder for the New York Empires baseball team. When he publicly announces that he is gay, he assumes the news will be taken in stride by the public and his teammates. It looks like it will indeed turn out that way until the Empires sign on a new pitcher. Shane Mungitt turns out to be a racist and bigot of the worst stripe. He makes racial and homophobic comments on a TV interview, leading to a public backlash for Darren and general discontent on the team. Darren emotionally retreats and then strikes up a friendship with Mason Marzac, his new financial adviser.

ANALYSIS: Winner of the 2003 Tony Award, this play is both an ode to baseball and an examination of American values.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (3), Male Monologues (1)


by Thomas Babe (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Annie is getting married tomorrow in this small New Hampshire church, so her various female relatives have come into town for what is supposed to be a rehearsal. The rehearsal never happens because the groom’s family is out at a bar somewhere. Instead, the women spend time together, sharing intimacies. We get to know all of them pretty well.

ANALYSIS: Upper-class people are interesting to watch when they begin to get insightful. Thomas Babe has an excellent ear for dialogue. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (1)


by Jane Martin (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A compilation of eleven monologues for women, all credited to Jane Martin. There is no plot or obvious theme, just some riveting monologues.

ANALYSIS: These well-written monologues are probably too long for audition purposes, but they’re very good for class. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (11)


by José Rivera (Ten-Minute Plays: Volume 3 from Actors Theatre of Louisville, Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: A person is led into a dark room by an attendant. The only thing inside is a table, an old tape recorder, a glass, and a pitcher of water. In truth, the dark room is really purgatory, and this person is there to listen to tape recordings of every lie he ever told in his life. He learns that there are ten thousand boxes of tapes.

ANALYSIS: For scenework, I love this little play. Neither of the characters knows one another at the start but, within ten minutes, they begin to have mutual understanding. The script calls for an old reel-to-reel tape recorder, but you can work around that.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Shelagh Delaney (Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: Jo moves into a slumlike flat in Salford, Lancashire, with her barhopping, whorish mother. Almost immediately, the mother moves out to marry a younger boyfriend, and Jo takes up with a black sailor. Their romance is intense and brief, leaving her pregnant and alone once he ships out. A gay student then moves in, caring for Jo as her pregnancy progresses. Late in her ninth month, Jo’s mother comes back after her marriage falls apart, so the good-hearted student is forced out. At the final curtain, Jo is going into labor for a home delivery.

ANALYSIS: Unsentimental and powerful, this perceptive drama was written by Shelagh Delaney when she was only eighteen years old.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Paddy Chayefsky (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Everything is in an uproar at the tiny Orthodox synagogue of the Congregation Atereth-Fiferth Yisroel in Mineola, a Long Island town. Not only is the sexton facing the usual trouble of finding a tenth Jew for morning prayer, Foreman has just shown up with his schizophrenic granddaughter and announced that she is, in fact, possessed by a dybbuk. This is a migratory soul that lands in the body of another human being in order to return to heaven. Foreman suggests an exorcism. After some debate, the sexton agrees to conduct the service, and preparations get under way. By the end of the play, when the exorcism takes place with some very surprising results, the granddaughter has fallen in love, a Jew who is grabbed from the street to make the quorum finds salvation, and the elders’ faith is strengthened.

ANALYSIS: Funny, poignant, and instructive, this 1959 comedy still delivers. Paddy Chayefsky was one of America’s greatest playwrights. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Jason Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The 1952 Pennsylvania High School Basketball champions are having their annual reunion at the coach’s house. Plenty of liquor and horseplay only temporarily cover the explosive tensions and violence simmering within the men. No longer a close team under the strict but loving guidance of their leader, it is now every man for himself in the game of life.

ANALYSIS: This stunning drama, the winner of the 1973 Tony Award for Best Play, holds up well. There are two glorious monologues for the coach. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2)


by William Saroyan (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: In 1939 Nick’s Saloon, a waterfront honky-tonk bar in “the lousiest part” of San Francisco, is a gathering place for eccentric characters. Joe is a fellow bent on finding the good and gentle in people; he is trying to live a life in which he doesn’t hurt anyone. There are also two young lovers, an aspiring comic, a piano player, a cop who doesn’t like his work, a prostitute with a heart of gold, and a few men who aren’t nice at all. In the end, good conquers evil, at least for now and at least in spirit, and love promises to prevail.

ANALYSIS: The Time of Your Life was awarded both the 1940 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the 1940 Pulitzer Prize. The scenes in this play are gentle and evocative, and the play reflects William Saroyan’s personal slant on life more than it centers on a plotline. The characters are, for the most part, endearing eccentrics. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (3)


by Suzan-Lori Parks (Theatre Communications Group)

SYNOPSIS: Two African-American brothers, cruelly named Lincoln and Booth by their father, live together in a run-down rooming house. Booth is a street hustler, his game Three-Card Monty; Lincoln used to be an even better street hustler but gave up cards to work in an arcade as a Lincoln impersonator—in whiteface. Lincoln is actually the smarter of the two men, which makes Booth even more competitive toward him. The action in the play revolves around Lincoln’s loss of his arcade job and Booth’s attempts to become a master at Three-Card Monty, like his brother. The climax is unexpected and violent.

ANALYSIS: This is a remarkable and insightful play. Ms. Parks has created a microcosm of American values in a single family, in much the same way that Sam Shepard does with True West. The brothers here are capable of real violence, and that is what gives their relationship its punch. The play won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2)


by Caryl Churchill (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: After Marlene is promoted to manager at the Top Girls Employment Agency, she hosts a celebration lunch that is attended by six women from the pages of history: Isabella Bird (1831-1904), Lady Nijo (born 1258), Dull Gret (subject of a Brueghel painting), Pope Joan (thought to have been Pope between 854 and 856 while disguised as a man), and Patient Griselda (a character from The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer). There are roasts and lunch and much talk about how each of these women fared in her lifetime.

In subsequent scenes, the actresses who play the six historical figures now play office co-workers and Marlene’s relatives. What the audience learns, finally, is that Marlene has refashioned herself despite her upbringing in order to achieve success in a man’s world and, in the process, has acquired the worst traits of successful men. The Top Girls Employment Agency coaches its job-seekers using these same tactics. In the last scene of the play, it becomes clear that the ultra-ambitious Marlene went so far as to abandon her own offspring, giving the child, who is now sixteen years old, to her sister Joyce to raise.

ANALYSIS: This is, frankly, a brilliantly conceived play that holds up quite well. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Eugene O’Neill (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Cornelius Melody, to the Irish manor born, has wound up struggling late in life to make ends meet in a small Massachusetts tavern. Although he was once a military hero in the Napoleonic Wars, he can now only relive those distant glories at an annual party during which he puts on his old officer’s uniform and holds court for the local lowlife and his own embarrassed family.

The events of this story take place on such a day, and there is no major plot. As Eugene O’Neill does in other dramas such as Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the central character is presented on the cusp of a revelation and, in a few short hours, his life has changed forever. In this case, Melody schemes to see his daughter marry the wealthy son of a neighboring landowner. When the young man’s parents respond by threatening to cut off his inheritance and by offering Melody a bribe to move away, he turns violent. Forced to confront the fact that he has become a shell of a man, Melody goes into a dark, drunken rage and shoots his prized mare, a symbol of his aristocratic origins and his self-deception.

ANALYSIS: This play was published after Eugene O’Neill’s death and didn’t reach Broadway until 1958. The language is rich, the literary references myriad, and the dialogue challenging. Best suited for serious, literate actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Gardner McKay (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: This two-character psychological thriller centers on the question of whether or not a male intruder into a woman’s home in the Hollywood Hills is a rapist, a voyeur, an actor, or a serial mutilator—or all of the above. The woman, a psychiatrist at a local hospital, is at first convinced that she is facing a voyeur, so she uses her knowledge of scopophilia to neutralize the potentially dangerous situation.

But then the situation turns deadly as the intruder admits to being the notorious Toyer, a serial mutilator whose modus operandi is to give his victim an animal tranquilizer and then sever her spinal cord, rendering her his “toy.” After terrorizing the psychiatrist with this possibility for a while, he suddenly turns jovial and says he is actually an actor practicing his character work. She is relieved, disoriented, and emotionally drained. They then drink some liquor and head for the bedroom. The next morning, however, she learns that he is the Toyer after all. When he tries to drug her, she turns the tables on him and, at the final curtain, has him tied up and is about to cut his spinal cord.

ANALYSIS: This play was originally published as a novella and inspired a movie of a different name. Tony Richardson directed Kathleen Turner and Brad Davis in a production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and there was a production of it at the Actors Studio. For intense, advanced actors who want to delve into the darkest psychological wilderness within, this tightly written play is ideal. Some scenes include justified nudity.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (5)


by Lillian Hellman (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Julian Berniers, brash and full of bravado, arrives in New Orleans one day in the 1940s for a visit with his budget-minded, simple-living sisters, bringing with him the wonderful news that he has struck it rich. It turns out, however, that he is involved in a romantic affair with Charlotte Warkins, a woman who helped him arrange a crooked real-estate deal in order to get money from Cyrus, her rich, ruthless husband. Julian intends to leave his clinging young wife, Lily, to marry Charlotte, but before that can happen, Lily tells Cyrus about his wife’s extramarital romance. Outraged, Cyrus arranges for a vicious retaliation against Julian and Charlotte.

ANALYSIS: A sprawling three-act drama—the kind no one writes anymore—Toys in the Attic opened on Broadway in 1960 and ran for more than a year, garnering Tony nominations for Anne Revere, Jason Robards, Maureen Stapleton, and Irene Worth. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Bernard Slade (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Wisecracking, fun-loving Scottie Templeton is diagnosed with a form of leukemia at the age of fifty-one and told to get his affairs in order. He decides to keep the diagnosis a secret and, without any appeal for pity, tries to salvage the strained relationship he has with Jud, his twenty-year-old son. As this relationship evolves, Scottie also comes to a deeper appreciation of his former wife and the true meaning of friendship. The dramatic device in the play is a tribute to Scottie, which is being given at a downtown theater by friends from all over the country. The action moves back and forth between the stage of that theater and Scottie’s apartment.

ANALYSIS: A lovely comedy, guaranteed to make audience members cry. Jack Lemmon portrayed Scottie on Broadway and in the subsequent movie. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by John Bishop (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The play is set in Mansfield, Ohio, where most folks work at the Westinghouse plant. Bobby Horvath escaped all of that to become a big-time stock-car driver on the southern circuit. Now, eight years later, it is clear that he’ll never be “number one” as a driver, so he has returned to his hometown in order to reestablish ties with the wife and child he left behind.

ANALYSIS: Ran briefly on Broadway, starring John Cullum. The best part of the play is the stock-car racing/factory-town/blue-collar milieu. John Bishop’s dialogue rings true.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1)


by Sam Shepard (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Austin is housesitting near Los Angeles for his mother who is on vacation in Alaska. Because he is a successful screenwriter, he is using the time to cement a new deal with movie producer Saul Kimmer. Then Austin’s older brother Lee, a vagabond and petty thief, shows up. The usual air of tension between these dissimilar men becomes even more highly charged when Lee decides to pitch a movie idea of his own to Saul and, wonder of wonders, Saul buys it.

ANALYSIS: Probably Sam Shepard’s most accessible play and a favorite in scene-study workshops. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (3), Three-Person Scenes (1)


by Tennessee Williams (The Theatre of Tennessee Williams, Volume 6; New Directions)

SYNOPSIS: Jake is a sharecropper whose income has been hurt by the encroaching syndicate. In retaliation, he secretly burns down the syndicate’s big cotton gin and then innocently makes himself available to gin all the cotton that is sitting around after the fire. Silva Vicarro, the superintendent of the Syndicate Plantation where the fire occurred, comes to Jake’s place to give him the gin business. Left alone with Jake’s childlike wife, Silva quickly discovers who set the fire and then responds by cruelly seducing the woman. Later, Jake gloats about all this newfound business, oblivious to his wife’s disheveled, sexually ravaged appearance. She tells him that Silva is planning to come back with loads of cotton (and presumably plans for more seduction) all summer.

ANALYSIS: An early one-act play from Tennessee Williams that is realistic and gritty. You can almost feel the perspiration and smell the dust on these rural, uneducated southern people as they do one another in. For sophisticated actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1)


by Murray Schisgal (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: These two one-act plays were a showcase for Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach. In the first, A Need for Brussels Sprouts, Leon is an actor practicing loudly for an audition as an opera singer. His upstairs neighbor complains to no avail. Then a police officer shows up to give him a summons for disturbing the peace. It turns out that the officer is Margaret, the upstairs neighbor Leon has never seen; she is actually a very nice widow with two teenagers. Leon is currently single, having been married three times before. In short order, a love affair is born.

The second one-act play, A Need for Less Expertise, involves a married couple, Gus and Edie, who are having sexual problems. Edie is neck-deep in therapy, self-help groups, and counselors, but Gus only grudgingly cooperates. The first time we see Gus and Edie, they are comically trying to follow the recorded instructions of sex counselor Dr. Oliovsky; each of his exercises is designed to lead couples one step closer to the bedroom. After several embarrassing stops and starts, Gus admits that he has had a number of affairs, all one-night stands, but that this errant behavior is all over. Edie gets mad, leaves, and then comes back. As the curtain falls, they begin to practice Dr. Oliovsky’s foot-massage exercise.

ANALYSIS: New York humor, very funny. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (3), Female Monologues (1)


by Lee Blessing (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Michael Wells was kidnapped from Beirut Lebanon University, where he was teaching. As the play opens, he has been in captivity for a year, and his wife, Lainie, has constructed a shrine to him in her home in the United States. The room is as identical as she can make it to the prison in which she imagines he is being held, with only a mattress on the floor. Ellen Van Oss, a State Department representative, often visits Lainie, imploring her to remain silent, not to speak to the press about her husband’s situation. She tells her threateningly that to do so would increase the danger for him; that the best option is to allow the government to work silently to free him. Walker Harris is another visitor. He is a reporter who encourages Lainie to go public because the government is in fact not doing enough to free her husband. In the end, the reporter wins, and Lainie does indeed go public. It is too late, however, because her husband’s captors execute him.

ANALYSIS: When this play was published in 1988, who would have thought that the United States would still be involved in a conflict in the Middle East two decades later? Provocative and challenging. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Neal Bell (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Two young children disappear from their bedroom during the night, and Lieutenant Brann is assigned to the case. He immediately suspects their mother, Eileen, who is estranged from her husband and working as a cocktail waitress in a strip joint. He interrogates her aggressively and, in the end, she confesses to the killings. Only she didn’t do it, a fact that becomes clear when the children’s bodies are found and the vagrant who killed them is taken into custody.

The real underbelly of this play is the complex love/hate relationship that develops between Brann and Eileen during the course of the interrogations. He is a straight-arrow conservative-leaning cop; she is doing what she has to do in the world to survive. He is simultaneously sexually attracted to her and repulsed by her. Their conversations take on aspects of masochism and religious guilt.

ANALYSIS: Adult material, plenty of subtext, sexually loaded, frequent rough language. For experienced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4)


by Jeffrey Sweet (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: New York City-based actress Norma Silverman arrives in Hollywood to appear in a play and to visit with her elderly father, Benny. When the play’s director suffers a stroke, Norma is put in an awkward position by his replacement, Leo Greshen, the man who named her father as a communist sympathizer in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s. Out of respect for her father, Norma feels that she can’t continue in the show without his blessing. Leo visits Benny’s home to meet with Norma and try to reconcile with Benny. They heatedly kick the subject of “naming names” back and forth, arriving at no satisfactory conclusions. In the end, Norma proceeds with the play, but Benny doesn’t forgive Leo for what he did. Some wrongs, he contends, can never be undone.

ANALYSIS: Originally commissioned by the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1982, the first production of this drama was directed by Emily Mann, herself a prolific and talented playwright. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by Tennessee Williams (New Directions)

SYNOPSIS: For part of 1938, Tennessee Williams lived in a French Quarter rooming house in New Orleans. Vieux Carré is more of a tableaux of the sad but colorful occupants of that house than it is a play. Nightingale is an aging, gay, tubercular painter; Mrs. Wire, a demented opportunistic landlady; Tye McCool, a drug-addicted barker at a strip-show joint; his lover, Jane Sparks, a fashion illustrator from up north whose leukemia is at first in remission but then returns. These and other characters move in and out of the house, their stories being narrated by a young writer, a role clearly based on Williams himself.

ANALYSIS: This play is useful for actors in search of powerful scenes and monologues but doesn’t hold together as a complete work. In fact, it closed after only five performances on Broadway and is rarely revived. Best suited for advanced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Eddie Carbone is a longshoreman of Italian descent, working the docks from the Brooklyn Bridge to the breakwater. He helps two of his wife’s cousins emigrate illegally from Sicily to the United States, putting them up in the small apartment he and Beatrice share with her beautiful orphaned niece, Catherine. The older of the immigrant brothers turns out to be hardworking and dependable, but the younger one is evidently cut from a different cloth. Rodolpho sings and cooks, and can even repair a dress—skills that make him suspect in Eddie’s eyes.

Then when Rodolpho and Catherine fall in love, Eddie is driven almost crazy with repressed jealousy. In his efforts to break up the couple, he accuses Rodolpho of being homosexual, of courting Catherine only to gain American citizenship. When it becomes clear that Catherine will marry Rodolpho, Eddie turns the brothers in to the Immigration Bureau. Before being deported, Marco, the older brother, seeks out Eddie and kills him. Rodolpho ultimately marries Catherine.

ANALYSIS: In his autobiography, Time Bends, Arthur Miller explains that he wrote this famous drama originally as a one-act companion piece to A Memory of Two Mondays. The playwright found the 1955 production unsatisfactory because Van Heflin didn’t have a seat-of-the-pants feel for the character of Eddie Carbone, but the 1965 off-Broadway revival was excellent because of the presence of Robert Duvall and Jon Voight as the immigrant brothers. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Female/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)

VISIT, THE: A TRAGI-COMEDY (Evergreen Original, #344)

by Friedrich Durrenmatt (translated by Patrick Bowles, Grove Press)

SYNOPSIS: Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world, returns to her Central European hometown, which is suffering from economic depression and disrepair. She offers £1 million to the town and its residents on a single condition—that they murder a beloved local citizen: Alfred Ill, the man who done her wrong many years ago. The offer alone makes the town prosperous, as the citizens begin to purchase goods on credit. In the end, murder is rationalized in the name of justice, and poor Alfred dies from fright.

ANALYSIS: Written by a major German dramatist, this parable is a vicious indictment of the power of greed. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Jane Martin (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: The play is a series of short monologues performed by six young women, sometimes relating to one another or to one of the two men who assist them, and sometimes to the audience. There is no discernible plot or theme except an effort to figure out, or comment on, colorful or poignant life situations. One woman talks about working as a waitress in an all-nude diner; another supervises unruly children at a playground; and still another describes a fun but rare excursion to Coney Island with her father.

ANALYSIS: For actresses who like to use cute stories for monologue material, Vital Signs, which was born at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, is a gold mine because it has thirty-nine of them. Only a few contain obvious conflict or tension. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female Monologues (2)


by Clifford Odets (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: The year is 1935, and a group of taxi drivers are gathered in a smoke-filled room to vote whether or not to go on strike. As they wait for their leader, Lefty, to show up, the men take turns going to center stage to tell their stories. These episodes dramatize families being torn apart, economic hardship, and corruption in the business place, and constitute the body of the drama. In the end, word comes that Lefty has been murdered, and the workers finally unite, demanding with one voice, “Strike! Strike! Strike!”

ANALYSIS: This kind of political theater (sometimes known as agitprop: a combination of “agitation” and “propaganda”) was common during and after the Great Depression. Clifford Odets wrote Waiting for Lefty, a five-scene, one-act play, intending it to be performed in labor halls as well as theaters. It was an immediate success, putting him and the Group Theatre firmly on the map. Odets and Sanford Meisner jointly directed that first production.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1)


by John Murrell (Talonbooks, Canada)

SYNOPSIS: A group of women in Calgary, Canada, do their part to support the men, young and old, who are overseas fighting in World War II. In twenty-four scenes presented in a single act, spanning three years, they cope with the pressures of war at home, sometimes with humor, sometimes with tears.

ANALYSIS: Even though the play is set in Canada and makes many references to that country’s government and local life, much of the material can be adapted for workshops anywhere. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (2)


by Philip Kan Gotanda (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: After forty-two years of marriage, at the age of sixty-seven, Masi Matsumoto has left her husband, Nobu, thirteen months ago. The play tracks them as they attempt to live alone or with new lovers, and try to redefine their relationships with their adult children. Masi and Nobu are both Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, and divorce is rare among these people.

ANALYSIS: Well-written drama that shines a light on generational differences in Japanese-American culture. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by A. R. Gurney, Jr. (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: During the summer of 1945, fourteen-year-old Charlie is happily under the influence of Anna the Pig Woman, a local free spirit and self-styled mentor who is determined to develop his very hidden talents. Maybe he is a sculptor! A painter! None of the above?

Charlie’s mother, Grace, meanwhile, who was herself once under Anna’s influence, is threatened by this laissez-faire philosophy. She would rather he join the country-club set and mark out a more conventional life path. The matter finally comes to a head when Grace and Anna decide to let Charlie choose for himself. He opts for Anna, moving into her barn. The arrangement is short-lived, however, because he soon wrecks her car, which he is too young to be driving. This event leads to legal and financial problems for Anna, and she is forced to sell her home and move into a trailer. This ends her time with Charlie. He then leaves for boarding school, his apprenticeship to Anna a fond memory.

ANALYSIS: If you liked the movie Harold and Maude, you’re going to love this play. Anna the Pig Woman is a lovable eccentric, the kind of person who disregards just about every rule and guideline society has to offer so that she can march along in her unorthodox but highly moral fashion. Clearly, A. R. Gurney is suggesting that everyone would be better off with a little bit of what Anna has. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (1)


by Edward Albee (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: George came to teach history at a small New England college twenty-three years ago and shortly after arriving married Martha, the college president’s daughter. As George’s prospects for academic prominence dimmed, however, their relationship, while remaining vivid and loving in its own way, has become cloaked in illusion and perverse game-playing. The action takes place between 2 A.M. and 5 A.M. one Sunday morning after a faculty reception at Martha’s father’s house. George and Martha “entertain” Nick, the new, young, handsome biology professor, and Honey, his simpering wife.

Everyone is slightly drunk as the curtain goes up, and a continual flow of alcohol fuels round after round of vicious game-playing, truth-telling, deception, seduction, and verbal brutality. Martha tries to seduce Nick, but he is too drunk to perform; Honey spends most of her time throwing up and sleeping in the bathroom; and George retaliates against Martha in an unexpected game where he “kills” their imaginary twenty-one-year-old son.

ANALYSIS: George and Martha, probably the most famous couple in modern drama, continually lash out at one another, cutting away layer after layer of facade, exposing raw nerve. All scenes require extreme honesty and vulnerability. The play walked off with almost all the Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway in 1963, including Best Actress for Uta Hagen as Martha. Sophisticated, demanding material that is appropriate for advanced actors.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Male/Male Scenes (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Brian Clark (Dramatic Publishing Company)

SYNOPSIS: Ken Harrison, sculptor and art teacher, suffered a spinal-cord injury in a car accident and is paralyzed from the neck down. After learning that the damage is permanent, he announces to the hospital staff that he would rather die than live this way. The physician in charge of the intensive-care ward contends that it is his duty to keep injured people alive and refuses to facilitate a suicide. A court hearing to determine Ken’s sanity is conducted, after which the judge orders the hospital to let him die if he wants to. Dignity begins not with life, but with choice.

ANALYSIS: Tom Conti first played the role of Ken Harrison in London and then won a Tony Award for Best Actor in the 1979 Broadway production. Richard Dreyfus starred in an excellent 1981 movie version. The script is written in the British vernacular but can easily be adapted to standard American usage. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male/Male Scenes (1)


by Michael Frayn (adapted from an early, untitled play by Anton Chekhov; Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Anton Chekhov’s original play, discovered in a Moscow safe-deposit box after his death, would, in Michael Frayn’s estimate, run “over six hours” and has too many sprawling plotlines and characters. Taking a great deal of liberty with the original manuscript, he has centralized the story along a premise that would later show up in The Cherry Orchard, namely, the pending loss of a family estate. The primary subject of the moment, however, is love. Set during the first balmy days of summer, romance is in the air, and all manner of intrigue is woven throughout. Everyone here is madly in love with someone who loves or is married to someone else, creating delicious comedic scenes.

ANALYSIS: Unlike Chekhov’s major plays, no one will argue that this modern adaptation is anything but a comedy. Michael Frayn has cleverly managed to maintain the spirit of Chekhov’s style with a subtle adaptation. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (4), Male Monologues (1)


by Margaret Edson (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Vivian Bearing is a fifty-year-old professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, and she is dying of advanced metastatic ovarian cancer. In this extraordinary one-act multiple-vignette play, Vivian narrates her own demise. She is alternately witty, dominant, submissive (to her disease), vulnerable, and strong. She has no family and no husband to comfort her at this time, but she relies instead on the poetry of John Donne and reflections on her life’s journey.

ANALYSIS: Does anybody really like to face human mortality head on? When confronted with the inevitability of death, most people will turn away. But I contend that actors are shamans and have a special obligation to consider such things. Wit, which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, certainly presents an excellent opportunity. The character of Vivian Bearing is dynamic, funny, painful, and multilayered. Portraying her will be emotionally exhausting and spiritually uplifting for any actor who takes on the job. Technical note: When we first meet Vivian, chemotherapy has already caused her to lose her hair. Actresses in workshop will have to figure out a way to deal with this, perhaps with a head-covering of some kind.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (1), Female/Female Scenes (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Clare Boothe Luce (Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Sweet and trusting Mary is shocked to discover that her wealthy husband, Stephen, is having an affair with Crystal Allen, a sales clerk at Saks. Mary’s gossipy friends spread the word all over town and, finally, a Reno divorce results. Two years later, Crystal, now married to Stephen, is bored and begins an affair with yet another man. Mary finds out about it and, having learned how to survive in the female jungle, helps sabotage their marriage. At the final curtain, Crystal and Stephen have divorced, while Mary and Stephen are reuniting.

ANALYSIS: No one writes plays like this anymore. The Women, with its massive forty-four-character, all-female cast, would cost a fortune to stage professionally today. Still, it is a polished gem with its claws out, and a delight for scene-study purposes. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Female/Female Scenes (3)


by William Mastrosimone (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Cliff is stuck in Philadelphia overnight while he waits for repairs on his big-rig truck. He starts talking with Rosie, a candy-counter clerk at a local five- and-dime store. When they wind up at her apartment, Cliff expects that they’re going to sleep together. But he soon realizes that Rosie is a bit odd, that she has no intentions of sleeping with him, and that she collects men’s sweaters. He leaves at the end of Act I but returns later in the night, drawn by some kind of unnamed attraction. At this point, Cliff discovers that Rosie has an entire closetful of men’s sweaters and, in fact, has never recovered from an earlier nervous breakdown. She prefers a fantasy love life to the risks of involvement with real flesh-and-blood men. The play ends with Rosie beginning to have another breakdown and Cliff comforting her.

ANALYSIS: William Mastrosimone, who also wrote Extremities, has a wonderful way with working-class language and manners. This strange play is very funny at times. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Female Scenes (2), Male Monologues (1), Female Monologues (1)


by Charles Fuller (Samuel French)

SYNOPSIS: Reuben and Rachel’s twelve-year-old daughter Jinny was killed in urban-gang crossfire as she sat on the front porch of her home. Although it is likely that several neighbors witnessed the tragedy, no one comes forward to identify the killer. So Reuben hangs a large sign over the front of his house that reads, “The Killers of our daughter Jinny are free on the streets because our neighbors will not identify them.” The sign becomes a subject of disagreement in the family and the object of anger in the neighborhood. Finally, the same hoodlum who shot Jinny comes to the house to rip down the sign and is killed by Uncle Emmett. Another death, however, doesn’t bring Jinny back or solve anything.

ANALYSIS: As tragic as today’s headlines, this well-written drama was first presented in 1980 at New York City’s famous Negro Ensemble Company. All the characters are African-American. All levels.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male Monologues (2), Female Monologues (1)


by Edward Albee (Zoo Story and The Sandbox: Two Short Plays, Dramatists Play Service)

SYNOPSIS: Peter is enjoying a warm afternoon in New York City’s Central Park when a stranger walks up and announces that he has been to the zoo. Peter and Jerry get into a conversation that begins on friendly terms but soon takes on overtones of dominance and control. Jerry becomes increasingly volatile, finally drawing a knife. Then he inexplicably tosses the knife to Peter and, when Peter tries to defend himself with it, Jerry lunges, impaling himself on the knife and committing suicide.

ANALYSIS: Albee’s first play, The Zoo Story premiered in Berlin in 1950 and is routinely revived.

SCENES/MONOLOGUES: Male/Male Scenes (1)