Don’t think that choosing a play script for kids to perform is simple. You may already have an idea of the type of play you want to produce or even a particular script. But before you dive right in and choose one I suggest you take a step back and ask yourself a few questions.
Who is your audience? This is critical – if you are staging a play for an audience of under-tens then it will need to be fairly short, with easily identifiable characters and a strong storyline – think of a typical fairy tale or pantomime. If your play will be seen by adults, parents perhaps, then it can be more subtle and contain more sophisticated themes, even if the cast are young themselves. If you are a kid staging a play for friends or family then you know your audience well so think about what they would like to see. It is the audience who will judge your production so chose a play that will work for them.
Who are your actors? Whether you are a teacher casting a high school play, an amateur producer, a kid wanting to stage a play with friends or an actor searching for an audition piece you have to choose a piece that fits the number, age , experience and skill of the actors. You also need to make sure the play fits with the staging, lighting, costume, music and props you can get. But don’t be afraid to stretch yourself: think you can’t do Shakespeare without a large adult cast? Others have, and so could you. But you must be realistic – small kids will not cope with a lengthy play with complex dialog. Older kids may want to tackle something more adult than a fairy tale. Match-up the number and playing ages of your cast with the characters and you’ll be fine.
How will you stage it? You don’t need a theatre – you can stage a play almost anywhere: your living room, a garden, the classroom, on the street or even in a theater! But the venue you choose may limit the kind of play you can perform. If you want to stage a full-cast musical it’s not going to work in a classroom. On the other hand in a 1000 seat auditorium a cast of six-year-olds will struggle to make the best nativity play come alive. On the whole small venues are best for small cast and shorter plays while a longer play with a large cast will make better use of a large space. You also need to think about staging – many short plays for kids can be done without any scenery at all and only the simplest props and costumes. Even longer, large cast plays can often be staged very simply. But if a play demands a castle set with ramparts, a drawer-bridge and moat then make sure you have someone who can build the set for you – or choose something simpler.
What is Your Budget? You may not need to spend any money at all. You can write, cast, rehearse and perform a classroom play without spending a penny. If you have a puppet theatre then you can stage a different play for your family every day of the week and all you will need are scripts, many of which can be found here for free. But as you get more ambitious the costs will rise. This is especially true if you choose a musical – most will require a larger cast (hence more scripts, more costumes) and a band (or at least a musician) with equipment. Bear in mind, also, that unless you choose a play that which has a free script and is free to perform that before you start you will have to find the money for a script for each person who needs one (never copy a script unless it is out of copyright or the writer has agreed) and a performance licence. Of course you could get around that by using a free script or writing your own.
Choosing your script is one of the first decisions you will have to make and one of the most important – choose carefully as everything else you do will come back to that decision.