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DanBuck

Favorite Small Cast Plays

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DanBuck   

I'm looking small character cast plays but I thought it might be fun to list your favorites here.

I'll start.

W;t - Margret Edson

Art - Yasmina Reza

Hospitality Suite - Roger Rueff

Tape - Steven Belber

A Zoo Story - Edward Albee

Talley's Folly - Lanford Wilson

Sylvia - A.R. Gurney

Proof - David Auburn

Doubt - John Patrick Shanley

Got others?

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Waiting for Godot

Lettuce and Lovage

Frankie and Johnie at the Claire de Lune

Edited by Darrel Manson

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you've hit most of my top favorites...

My newest favorite play in the world is a 3 person play called Horizon by Rinde Eckert, but I don't know if he puts the rights out for people to put his plays on without him (he acts in them as well). But how about...

All of Beckett...

Who's Afraid of virginia Woolf

long day's journey into night

betrayal (actually, a lot of pinter is small cast)

the chairs

miss julie

master harold and the boys

dinner with friends

true west

american buffalo

how small is small? I was thinking of 4 or less, but if you go up to around 8, there's:

Importance of Being Earnest

Uncle Vanya

The Real Thing (stoppard)

Streetcar named Desire

and more...

i'm ashamed to say i've not read or seen Copenhagen, but it's small cast

have you thought of small cast versions of classics - greeks or mystery plays? i've done a 5 person Midsummer night's dream that i felt worked really well.

also, of plays by Christians, ones I've either read or seen

Paper Wings by Gil Elvgren

Lifting the Veil by Paul Patton

Song of the Bow by Wayne Harrell

Ron Reed has a couple of small cast works, i think - i have one or two sitting on my desk to read soon

And tooting my own horn, all of my plays have small casts - mostly in the one act range. and I'm terribly fond of most of them ::blushing::

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DanBuck   

I don't feel qualified to tackle the absurdists. Pinter, Stoppard, Becket. I feel like I don't get them well enough yet to do them. But I'm learning about them.

I'm excited by the realistic to quasi-realistic range.

Yes, cast size four or under.

And we have to stay away from pervasively bad language or VERY adult topics.

Who's Afraid of virginia Woolf - maybe

long day's journey into night - frightening

betrayal (actually, a lot of pinter is small cast) - see above

the chairs - see above

miss julie - don't know it

master harold and the boys - i think i know this one...

dinner with friends - reading it now!! May add it to my list

true west - Stoppard?

american buffalo - Mamet?

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mrmando   

Painting Churches - Tina Howe

Skylight - David Hare

Faith Healer - Brian Friel

I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe - Dawson Nichols

Gotta be some others. I'll ponder a bit. Seems like when I saw Wit there were about 7 in the cast (doubling might cover this in another production), and Lettice and Lovage requires some walk-on bodies to be part of a tour group.

True West is by Sam Shepard; believe it's a cast of 4 (2 main parts and 2 small walk-ons). Pretty brutal. Burn This is another Lanford Wilson piece, but completely different from Talley's ... even more brutal than True West and practically guaranteed to violate the language clause.

Isn't Dinner with Friends a Donald Margulies play? Check out his Collected Stories while you're at it. Lovely piece of writing. Steven Dietz's Fiction explores some of the same territory, and his Lonely Planet is a good 2-person play about AIDS.

Edited by mrmando

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Copenhagen - Michael Frayn

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DanBuck   
Painting Churches - Tina Howe -
Tina is big for us this year. We're putting up Museum this Friday and she's coming here for the Horton Foote festival. Everyone will be a bit Howed-out.
Skylight - David Hare

Faith Healer - Brian Friel

I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe - Dawson Nichols

I will look into these.

Isn't Dinner with Friends a Donald Margulies play? Check out his Collected Stories while you're at it. Lovely piece of writing.
I will.

Thanks all.

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mrmando   

How could we forget ...

Moon for the Misbegotten

BTW, I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe is a one-man play. I've seen the playwright do it twice; he's brilliant. I wonder how it would work with someone else making a whole different set of choices.

There's always ...

A Perfect Ganesh

More accessible than most of McNally, although I wonder how anything by the author of Corpus Christi would play at Baylor.

Edited by mrmando

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I hate to suggest something I haven't read, but Cormac McCarthy wrote a two-man play called the Sunset Limited. Wiki synopsis here.

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mrmando   

Lee Blessing

Two Rooms

Eleemosynary

Going to St. Ives

Patient A

Cobb

Ariel Dorfman

Death and the Maiden

Robert Schenkkan

Heaven on Earth

(this one's kind of obscure, but methinks 'twould play very well at Baylor)

Athol Fugard

Road to Mecca

Reportedly many of William Mastrosimone's plays are for small casts.

Edited by mrmando

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DanBuck   

Have you READ The Pillowman? Not exactly Baylor friendly. Although I've heard its awesome.

Edited by DanBuck

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Ron Reed   
I'm looking small character cast plays but I thought it might be fun to list your favorites here.

I'll start.

W;t - Margret Edson

WIT's actually a bit bigger than four actors, isn't it? We'll do this one at Pacific Theatre someday. Went for the rights several years back, but the big regional theatre in town grabbed it. At least they did a decent job.

Doubt - John Patrick Shanley

Superb.

Two absolute exemplars of plays that engage with spiritual / religious themes.

Lettuce and Lovage

"Lettice", actually. If it were the vegetable, it would be mis-spelled, but of course it's the woman's name.

Another lovely piece, which we also staged at PT. Great stuff about the place of the artist in the world, the value of imagination, even touches of a sense of something about God. And of course, it's darn funny. I bet you'd have a blast with it, Dan.

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Ron Reed   
My newest favorite play in the world is a 3 person play called Horizon by Rinde Eckert, but I don't know if he puts the rights out for people to put his plays on without him (he acts in them as well).

You got any contact information so I could track the guy down? I'm intrigued!

master harold and the boys

Brilliant. Belongs right up there with those others. I don't know if you've picked up on the suggestion that the main black character is some sort of a Christian, but I did when I saw James Earl Jones do the role in Los Angeles, and it really resonated when my company produced it.

i'm ashamed to say i've not read or seen Copenhagen, but it's small cast

Another one I considered, but chose not to. Worth noting that it's very difficult to pull off: without really exceptional actors, it plays very talky.

Paper Wings by Gil Elvgren

I acted in that one, it's very strong, and treats in a most fascinating and theatrically effective way the difficult problem of portraying a genuine conversion. I'll also say that I found the play a very dark place to live, as Stanley: a rich experience, but bleak. (You should also know if you consider PAPER WINGS that Gil is very approachable about cutting scenes that you're not sure about: we premiered the piece, and flew him in, and he was shocked that we had actually kept a couple of the scenes!)

Lifting the Veil by Paul Patton

Don't know that one, but Paul's a real interesting playwright.

Song of the Bow by Wayne Harrell

Well worth considering! And terrific for your context at Baylor, if people are looking for ways to engage with the conversation about homosexuality and faith - Wayne comes from a theological position that wouldn't differ from many folks on your campus, but certainly advocates compassion and inclusion. Not to reduce the piece to an "issue play" - it stands very well as a play, just on good dramaturgical grounds.

Ron Reed has a couple of small cast works, i think - i have one or two sitting on my desk to read soon

Yeah, but he sucks.

My first "real" play is a three man piece, FISH TALES, about three Cape Breton Island men on a fishing boat. It's not a modern retelling of the events around Peter's conversion, but it has lots of echoes. It's real fun to act, strong character roles, but I didn't know nothing about dramatic structure, so it's terribly weak dramaturgically. Cool Stan Rogers songs, though.

If you're up for a musical, TENT MEETING is a blast, though slightly larger than your parameters, having 4M 1W, but man would it play at Baylor! Set in the Depression, about the awkward reunion of a gospel quartet. I never know if it comes across on the page, but man is it popular in production: just closed at Rosebud Theatre in Alberta, was held over at A.D. Players in Houston, Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon remounted it the following summer in another theatre space just outside of town, we produced it twice and toured it across Canada with great sales in Edmonton, at the Belfry in Victoria and at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg. Bob Smyth slated it for Lamb's Players one summer, actually listed it in their season playbill, but they hit a financial crisis and swapped in YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN instead: he's still considering it, though, and there's a possible Southern U.S. tour being whispered about by others. (Sorry, I've clicked into enthusing mode, which comes awful close to boasting / salesman mode: apologies. But it's the spiel I always give to people who consider the script: like I said, it doesn't necessarily come alive on the page the way it always does on stage: a real crowd-pleaser, but with substantial stuff as well. And real interesting for a director, with three of the men doubling as their younger counterparts in another gospel quartet).

REMNANT is a post-apocalyptic Christmas play with 2M 3W - sort of "A Road Warrior Christmas." Huge set demands, though.

BOOK OF THE DRAGON is only an hour long, so I don't know if that suits. Four high school students, one teacher. Quite proud of that one.

I've also got a one-man piece that runs just under an hour, THE TOP TEN THOUSAND OF ALL TIME.

The rest have larger casts.

And tooting my own horn, all of my plays have small casts - mostly in the one act range. and I'm terribly fond of most of them ::blushing::

Well, toot away! I've been leaning on mine, haven't I?

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Ron Reed   
Faith Healer - Brian Friel

Very intriguing, sophisticated piece. Only tackle it if you've got really strong actors. It's comprised of one lengthy monologue from each of the three characters, then one final monologue by the first of them. And they're meaty monologues.

Lonely Planet is a good 2-person play about AIDS.

I LOVE this play! It was staged as part of one of our seasons as a guest production (as was another show that mrmando played in, as a matter of fact), but we didn't produce it ourselves. A couple strong actors, but it was a troubled production and just didn't come off. Now, the two characters are gay, and the play makes no apologies for that, so is that a consideration at Baylor? If so, what a shame: a brilliantly entertaining, puzzling, and ultimately very moving play. Accessible. Would be a really strong choice.

Thinking of guest productions we've had on our stage, you might check out DOMINO HEART. Structured exactly like FAITH HEALER, but not nearly such dense writing: much more within the reach of most actors. First, a woman talks about the death of her husband, and her decision about allowing his heart to be used for a transplant. Then two monologues by men who have some relationship to what happens next to that heart: I'm being vague because part of what makes the play work is the reveals about who the two men are. Then back to the woman to close. Again, lots of faith resonances. Canadian script, strong.

How could we forget ...

Moon for the Misbegotten

Oooh, yes! Saw that this spring with Kevin Spacey and the astonishing Colm Feore and the astonishing Eve Best. Oh my gosh.

Being O'Neill, your actors would have to be able to handle the immense challenges of the language. And they'd need to come up with really earthy, grounded physical performances. If they weren't up to the challenges, the play would be deadly dull.

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Ron Reed   
Lee Blessing

Two Rooms

Eleemosynary

Patient A

Amen to all three of those. Most heartily so for TWO ROOMS, which is a really substantial piece of theatre, extremely topical with Americans noticing things going on in the rest of the world at the moment, and definitely can work perfectly well with student actors: there was a very effective staging at Trinity Western a couple years back. Give that one serious thought. Utterly simple set requirements, huge scope for a director to shape the piece, in which two separate rooms "overlap," with events in both being played out simultaneously in the same space.

ELEEMOSYNARY plays beautifully, and again would give scope for your humour, Dan. A bit short, perhaps? Around 75 minutes, maybe, which might be ideal for you. Lovely ensemble piece for three actresses (and Lord knows university theatres are always looking for plays for women!), with so much cool staging stuff for the director to solve. If Baylor would be touchy, there's definitely a "New Age" vibe, but if people can just stay calm and view it as the wonderful character piece that it is (and maybe even appreciate it's "gestures toward the transcendent"), it could be a doozy for you! (Or is that "doozey"? Have to run down to Tally's Folley and ask...)

Athol Fugard

Road to Mecca

Another good call, mrmando! Another one I've repeatedly considered for Pacific Theatre. Can feel much longer than it needs to be, to a North American audience - it's a Fugard thing, I think it's a cultural thing - but it's all about faith and art. (I understand your qualms about cutting a playwright's work, and applaud you for it: we never do it at Pacific Theatre without permission. But in this case, I would give serious consideration to about a 20% "trim"). You'd need one actress who could pull off pretty extreme age, and your male actor would also need to play age, though not to the same extent. And the set really needs to be something special.

Thinking of Fugard, PLAYLAND is absolutely extraordinary, his most directly spiritual / Christian / religious piece that I've read. Some strong language, but I bet you could get permission to adjust that. Just after apartheid has been dismantled. A black man, a Christian, works at a midway: his family was massacred by white paramilitary. A nasty white man starts hanging around, they talk, it turns out he was involved in the murder of the other man's family. What can be forgiven? Etc. Wow. (Bloody tricky accents, though.)

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Ron Reed   

Here's a batch of small-cast stuff we've had at Pacific Theatre that I'd recommend.

LEARNING TO LIVE WITH PERSONAL GROWTH, Arthur Milner (yup, that's spelled correctly. He's a Canadian playwright.)

2M 2W. Social worker with ailing marriage tempted to take up an affair with one of his clients, also tempted to violate his principles by investing in a quickie real estate development deal. Fun to act, lively script with a delicious ironic tone and brilliantly provocative ending.

THE RANGER NED STORY, Scott Hafso

Only an hour long, but brilliant. Starts out like a sit com, very funny, ends up really quite tragic. A "sit trag," if you like. 2M 2W

THE VOICE OF THE PRAIRIE, John Olive

2M 1W. Done a lot, for good reason. Early days of radio. One man plays multiple characters. The woman plays blind. Fun, achievable acting challenges.

I've got a five-actor MACBETH that plays like a dream.

If you ever need a dynamite ten-minute play for a class, check out my very favourite, HYMN IN THE ATTIC by Beth Henley, in an anthology called "24 Hours: PM." Wowza. 2W

And a stunning 35ish-minute play for 1M 1W, THE DISAPPEARING, by J.P. Allen. Homeless guy lives in an alley, severely alcoholic. Middle class woman shows up sleeping in the alley one morning, well dressed, dress torn. Stuff happens. Really challenging: my favourite scene work to teach to my most advanced students, and I'm dying to play the role myself someday. So powerful. It seems like not much is happening, the dialogue is circular, but trust me, start working on the piece,and it's all there. Electric in performance. Intense. I'm a fan.

MASS APPEAL, of course, 2M. Reads as pretty shallow sit com, but plays much more substantial.

HOLY MO, crazy brilliant piece by Lucia Frangione. Three women, sort of gypsey clowns, one of them mute, recount the entire story of Moses in Act One, and King David in Act Two. I know, I know, it sounds like bad Bible drama. But Lucia is simply a brilliant playwright, and this show wowed all the critics, won insane response from our audience, we ran it once then revived it a couple years later, huge hit both times. SO funny, so substantial, so moving. You. Would. Have. A. Blast.

And you really need to consider NAVY WIFE, by Jason Milligan. 1M 2W, set in 1956 (?) on an air force base in Texas. Opens with the young woman of the title awaiting the return of her husband, a navy pilot. His mother is there waiting with her. For the opening scenes, the two of them skirt around what's actually going on. Which I won't spoil for you. Some people read the play and underestimate it: it's pure fifties American realism, even though it was written in the eighties the style is a perfect match for the setting. Heck, you could tell people it was a long-lost William Inge play and they'd believe you. It would play like a dream with a college cast.

AGNES OF GOD, of course. 3W.

SISTER CALLING MY NAME, Buzz McLaughlin. 1M 2W. Strong faith element, wonderful Catholic playwright, ran a professional theatre for a decade or more that was nothing but new play development. Very bitter thirty-something man drawn into his sister's life against his will: she has profound mental and emotional problems, has been institutionalized, ruined their parents' marriage and his younger years. But the nun who is working with her has discovered remarkable artistic abilities, and wants the brother to advise on how to handle her rather extensive potential fame and financial success - though what she really wants is to re-engage him in the young woman's life, even to challenge him with the almost miraculous healing that has been going on in the young woman. Based on some of Buzz's own experiences. VERY actable.

GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS. Though surely that's been done down there? 3M. Controlling pastor of massive megachurch brings in a young preacher to become his successor, but cannot relinquish the reigns of power. Might read like an attack on Christianity, but we played it and found something very different: definitely critical of the abuse of power within church (or any other) institutional structure, but I'm convinced it's completely respectful of the real Gospel.

PRIVATE EYES, another STeven Dietz. Play within a play within a rehearsal within a play within... The hall of mirrors structure reflects the disorientation and distortion of truth when a spouse is drawn into an extramarital affair. 2M 2W

LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC, 1M 1W. Very slight little love story, but pleasing enough in performance, and perfectly suited to university actors. Christian author.

THE QUARREL, 3M. Seems VERY talky on the page, but packs an emotional punch in performance, if you really dig into the agonized relationship, Holocaust background and awkward reconciliation of two Holocaust survivors: one becomes a rabbi, the other abandons his faith.

GRACE, by Craig WRight. 3M 1W. VERY challenging: starts and ends with a murder-suicide. Some viewers find it extremely bleak, even nihilistic: others, a powerful affirmation of authentic faith faced with the presence of evil and suffering in the world. By a writer for Six Feet Under.

*

And NOW I've got to get on with my day! Curse you, DanBuck! (Actually, that was fun!)

Ron

Edited by Ron

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Ron Reed   

A LIFE IN THE THEATRE

David Mamet

2M, can easily be played by 2W. Very funny scenes mixed with poignant, subtext-loaded stuff.

DRIVING MISS DAISY

2M 1W

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DanBuck   

::Warning:: - Some profanity in this post, purely as a discussion of words permitted in a theatrical institution.

I had to submit my suggestions already, but I could have an alternative as an ace in the hole.

I went with Tape, Talley's Folly, and Drawer Boy.

BUT - I'm very intrigued by the two Lee Blessing plays Mando mentioned and Ron concurred about.

BTW - Baylor, I find is okay with most thematic stuff. IE - a play that has "new age themes" wouldn't get much flack. The gay characters, might throw some folks. Although we had two characters who clearly were portrayed as gay in Musuem, but neither they nor their sexuality was crucial to the piece. If you really want to put bees in bonnets at Baylor... say "God damn" on stage. Tenured professors can get away with "fuck" (but only once or twice and with lots of preemptive warnings. :)

OH!!! And thanks to all for your help in this!! It's greatly expanded my must read and consider list!

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Ron Reed   

DRAWER BOY! Of course!! Good call. Fascinating look at what art and theatre are all about, as well as celebrating one of the historic landmarks in Canadian theatre (THE FARM SHOW, and the origins of Prairie Theatre Exchange). How'd you find out about DB?

R

P.S. Remind me: what's TAPE? Who by?

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DanBuck   
DRAWER BOY! Of course!! Good call. Fascinating look at what art and theatre are all about, as well as celebrating one of the historic landmarks in Canadian theatre (THE FARM SHOW, and the origins of Prairie Theatre Exchange). How'd you find out about DB?

R

P.S. Remind me: what's TAPE? Who by?

My professor, Dr. Marion Castleberry (an expert on Horton Foote, btw) told me about it. It was my first encounter with it and I quite liked it. Beautiful simple, menaingful. And pretty damn funny at moments.

Tape: Stephen Belber

A young filmmaker meets an old high school buddy in a motel room on the eve of his film's Festival Premiere. In the course of their mutual teasing and nostalgia, a certain night in their past comes up. The fimmaker, under some serious psyhcological pressure confesses to date raping the friend's girlfriend, the night after she had broken up with him. Once the confession is out the friend pulls out a tape recorder. The entire conversation was taped. Then, he reveals that the girlfriend, is now a Assistant to the District Attorney in the area and that he called her before the fimmaker arrived to schedule a mini-reuinion. A few moments later, there is a knock at the door. It's a clausterphobic, high energy, psychological cat and mouse game that makes everybody rethink the way they've interpreted their past, and subsequently their identity.

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