Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/ 9/2010

Shakespeare unseated as king of high school theater

By Valerie Strauss

William Shakespeare has been knocked off his throne as king of dramatic high school theater productions for the first time since an annual survey began in 1937 -- and you may be surprised by who overtook him.

Dramatics magazine has surveyed the International Thespian Society’s member schools to find out what plays they’ve been doing, and the results have come to be seen of as an index of the most popular plays in North American high schools.

In the 2009-10 school year, the most popular full-length play was Almost, Maine, John Cariani’s quirky romantic comedy in which people fall in and out of love in funny ways.

Second was the Bard of Avon’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And third was You Can’t Take It With You, a comedy that has been on the most-produced list since the survey began more than 70 years ago.

The two other main categories of responses tallied in the play survey were top musicals -- Disney’s Beauty and the Beast -- and top short plays, with Check Please, by Jonathan Rand in the top spot. The top 10 winners in category are below.

The survey was sent out to the more than 4,000 high school theatre programs affiliated with the International Thespian Society, the student honorary division of the Educational Theatre Association, which publishes Dramatics magazines. Eight hundred schools participated and listed 1,172 different titles, with full-length productions and short plays (one-acts) making up the majority of the responses.

In the musical category, Disney's Beauty and the Beast repeated as No. 1, and seven of the remaining nine titles returned from the previous year. The exceptions are both adaptations from films: Footloose and The Wizard of Oz.

All top 10 short plays are comedies, and, for the second year in a row, Jonathan Rand claimed half of the plays on the list.


1. Almost, Maine, by John Cariani (Dramatists Play Service)
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare (public domain)
3. You Can’t Take It With You, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (Dramatists Play Service)
4. Noises Off, by Michael Frayn (Samuel French)
5. Twelve Angry Men*, by Reginald Rose (Dramatic Publishing Co.)
6. (tie) Alice in Wonderland (various adaptations of the book by Lewis Carroll)
6. (tie) The Crucible, by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)
6. (tie) Our Town, by Thornton Wilder (Samuel French)
9. (tie) Fools, by Neil Simon (Samuel French)
9. (tie) A Christmas Carol (various adaptations of the book by Charles Dickens)
* Includes productions under the title Twelve Angry Jurors and Twelve Angry Women

1. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton (MTI)
2. Seussical, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (MTI)
3. (tie) Grease, by Jim Jacobs and Warrren Casey (Samuel French)
3. (tie) Into the Woods*, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (MTI)
5. Footloose, by Dean Pitchford, Walter Bobbie, and Tom Snow (Rodgers and Hammerstein)
6. (tie) The Wizard of Oz (multiple adaptations), by L. Frank Baum, Harold Arlen, and E.Y. Harburg (Tams-Witmark)
6. (tie) You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, by Clark Gesner (Tams-Witmark)
8. The Music Man*, by Meredith Willson (MTI)
9. Once Upon a Mattress, by Mary Rodgers, Marshall Barer, Jay Thompson, and Dean Fuller (Rodgers and Hammerstein)
10. Thoroughly Modern Millie, by Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlon, and Richard Morris (MTI)
* Includes productions of the publisher’s “junior” versions.


1. Check Please, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
2. Check Please: Take 3, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
3. (tie) The Actor’s Nightmare, by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)
3. (tie) 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview, by Ian McWethy (Playscripts, Inc.)
5. Check Please: Take 2, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
6. (tie) The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, by Don Zolidis (Playscripts, Inc.)
6. (tie) Hard Candy, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
8. (tie) Competition Piece, by John S. Wells (Samuel French)
8. (tie) How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
10. This Is a Test, by Stephen Gregg (Dramatic Publishing Co.)


Follow my blog every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | October 9, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Arts Education  | Tags:  almost maine, beauty and the beast, dramatics, footloose, high school theater, high school theater productions, john cariani, midsummer night's dream, shakespeare, shakespeare plays, theater, theater productions, theater survey, top 10 musicals, top 10 plays  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: P.S.: Stephen Colbert blew it on schools, too
Next: The bankrupt 'school reform manifesto' of Rhee, Klein, etc.


Thinking of taking classes online? Find an accredited degree program. will find a suitable degree for you

Posted by: kevinmarlo07 | October 7, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

This doesn't pass the smell test. A four-year-old play I've never heard of is more widely produced than not just Shakespeare, but chestnuts like Our Town and The Crucible? Maybe I need to go to more high school plays, but this strains my credulity.

Posted by: rpondiscio | October 7, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company