No matter if you’re looking for a library building, classroom use, directing projects, performances, or competitions, we’ve rounded up our recommendations for one-acts for this school year. See titles in the following categories:
Already staged all your favorite one-acts? Update your script library and bring these brand new one-acts to your repertoire! Bring current, relevant stories to your students with these engaging shows.
The Great American College Tour
Ian McWethy & Carrie McWethy (McCrossen)
Calvin and Olive’s parents insist that they tour as many colleges as possible before deciding about their future. (Even though they’re both already sure what they want to do after graduation!) So they will each visit a long succession of the quirkiest, most niche, most extreme examples of American higher education (a fully outdoor wilderness school, a sports-obsessed big ten school, a liberal arts college where you can major in “gender studies of environmental history through theater and visual arts.”) A high energy, hilarious comedy that asks, should some of these universities lose their accreditation?
Casting: 2W, 2M 12 Any (Flexible, 6-22 actors possible)
A cryptic government agency asks Ash, a specialist in memory formation, to help amnesiac Grace remember her past. Given little information on his patient—or his employer—Ash must use clues in Grace’s behavior to figure out who she is, what happened to her, and why someone would pay top dollar to help her regain her memories. But the more information Grace learns about herself, the more dangerous she becomes . . . The Specialist is a twisty, Jason Bourne-esque play about lies, secret agencies, and assassins.
Casting: 1W, 6 Any
Dating is wild, especially if you’re a praying mantis and your date might bite your head off. Or a ram and you have to fight another ram on your first date with an ewe. Or a lobster discovering falling in love means molting. (Beavers have nothing to worry about though; they pair-bond forever and raise children equally.) Luckily there’s Zoodate, the first-ever dating app for animals. Zoodate: When animal instincts just aren’t enough. Not responsible for terrible dates with bad animals.
Casting: 17 W, 12 M, 1 Any (Flexible, 5-30 actors possible)
Algebra should be illegal! At least that’s what Dahlia told her dad, who took her complaints straight to the school board. Now, parents are protesting polynomials, and algebra is outlawed at Dahlia’s school. Math books are considered dangerous, and teachers are closely watched to make sure they don’t talk about radicals. But Dahlia’s starting to think that maybe math isn’t all that bad . . . If Dahlia’s father is already on his way to the capitol to introduce a bill banning algebra from schools across the state, how fast will Dahlia have to travel to stop him?
Casting: 13 Any (Flexible, 9-15 actors possible)
Santa Claus Might Not Be Coming to Town
Dipsy the Elf is fed up with the way Santa’s Workshop is run. And she’s not the only one—tired of an increasingly long Christmas season and the demand for more complicated toys, Santa Claus leaves the North Pole, escaping to a glacier with a legion of penguins who worship him. Now, it’s up to Dipsy and her misfit friends to find Santa and teach him the true meaning of Christmas: good working conditions for all.
Casting: 20 Any (Flexible, 16-24 actors possible)
There are two sides to every story: 17/18 follows two friend groups preparing for the same surprise birthday party when a break-up alters the evening’s plans. While evaluating their night and their relationships, the friends confide their anxieties about growing up, their identities, and the future. In 17, Fish, Donk, Scrum, and Robbie get ready for Sloane’s surprise party like any other typical night. As the conversation progresses, the four friends reveal things that forever change the way they see each other.
In 18, Sloane’s friends are setting up her surprise party. When they find out she and Robbie broke up the night before, they realize everything is changing as they grow and get older.
Casting: 5W, 1 Nonbinary
If you’re looking for gender or size expansive casting, these one-acts are for you. Each of these shows has no gender specification for anyone to play anyone!
Container of Sharks!
Welcome to Container of Sharks, a TV show where entrepreneurs put their ideas to the test in the hopes of winning start-up money from a panel of billionaire investors and one actual shark. Will these apex predators invest in a jetpack that rockets kids from activity to activity so their parents never have to leave the sports bar? What about a fire-beam laser that targets annoying people? Or Jordan’s grandma’s cookie recipe? The stakes are high—any business hopeful who fails to convince the panel their idea is worth investing in gets thrown to the sharks . . . literally!
Casting: 19 Any (Flexible, 19-24 actors possible)
Four people wake up in a room with no memory of who they are or how they got there—and no way out. As they’re put through a series of increasingly dangerous trials, they start to realize they’re actually part of a secret interview process.
Casting: 5 Any
Meg McCrossen, Carrie McWethy (McCrossen)
The two uptight hosts of the Kennedy Center Honors find themselves broadcasting live from their nightmares when they are forced to honor some of the nation’s most ridiculous internet influencers. The confused duo must interview internet stars who’ve made their mark in everything from terrible song parodies to perplexing makeup tutorials and unhinged conspiracy theories about popular cookies. Influencer Nation is a hilarious whirlwind journey through the most outrageous corners of online culture. So smash that subscribe button!
Casting: 10 Any (Flexible, 3-13 actors possible)
13 Signs You Should Stop Being a Pirate
The most dastardly crew on the high seas is horrified when Jaime starts to question the pirate’s life. Helping people? Putting a unicorn on their flag? Dabbling in Buddhism? What could be worse?! The pirates must set their shipmate straight before it’s too late, but the sea is full of distracting swordfights and manatees that look like mermaids. A goofy celebration of the arrrrt of being a pirate for crews of all sizes.
Casting: 4 Any (Flexible, 4-13 actors possible)
From the author of Lockdown comes this quick-paced satire of modern politics and information which considers the nature of power, truth, love . . . and pie. In a secret lab are a tube, a machine, a lever and an enormous pie! Scientists, led by the godlike Dr. Essence, create life. Down the tube comes a Dam. Left to himself, Dam pulls the lever and from the tube come person after person until the lab is full. At first, they share the pie and are happy. But one of them, Bask, slyly gains control and turns them against each other.
Casting: 16 Any (Flexible, 16-25 actors possible)
If you’re planning to bring your one-act on the road or just need minimal tech, these shows have flexible scenic requirements without losing any theatricality.
Appropriate Audience Behavior
Carol and Ashley are expecting a tale of woe as they take their seats to watch Hamlet, but the real tragedy is that they’re sitting next to the world’s noisiest weirdos. The audience takes the spotlight as everyone from a cough-drop obsessive to a guy watching the play like a football game steals the show from the unseen Shakespearean masterpiece. An outrageously meta comedy that reminds us where the drama belongs–onstage.
Casting: 9W, 8M, 3 Any (Flexible, 5-20 actors possible)
Digging Up the Boys
Laura Lundgren Smith
The mine where Floyd, Paul, and Jack work is old, nearly picked clean and about to be closed, when part of it collapses, trapping them. The women left above race to the foreman, only to receive the company line: Go home and pray. We’ll handle it. Though the men are seen as “no-counts” in a class-conscious South, to Addie, May, and Ruth they are beloved fathers, husbands, and brothers. Those above and below are left to whistle in the dark, desperate for a miracle — but the mine holds a terrible secret that will change their lives forever.
Casting: 3W, 4M, 1 Any
A new theater teacher is bringing a production of A Chorus Line to the high school. Though the hopefuls range from shy to outrageous, and from diva-like to determined, everyone has a chance to step into the spotlight. A hilarious and heartbreaking look at the madness of auditioning and the actors who brave the process for that perfect part.
Casting: 10W, 3M, 11 Any (Flexible, 13-30 actors possible)
When a housewife comes to the end of her rope with her abusive husband, she doesn’t expect him to spontaneously combust. Now she has a pile of ashes on the floor, and a life to reclaim.
Brief Interviews with Internet Cats
Celebrity interviewer Ian McWorthy has a dream line-up for tonight’s episode of the World Wide Window: a veritable litterful of felines whose internet antics have catapulted them to fame. In this fast-paced series of hilarious interviews, Ian uncovers the story behind Tuffy’s first dramatic foray into a cardboard box, learns just what makes Nelson the Grouchy Cat so very, very grouchy, contends with the diva-like antics of Kitty Boo Boo and her entourage, and so much more. So stay tuned! Things are bound to get a little…hairy.
Casting: 9W, 7M, 6 Any (Flexible, 8-30 actors possible)
Reeling from her sister’s death, Beth suddenly finds herself journeying through a world suspiciously resembling the film The Wizard of Oz. But with the yellow brick road sold to foreign investors after a financial meltdown, the Scarecrow reveling in his ignorant bliss, the Cowardly Lion acting like a paranoid sociopath, and the Tin Man embracing his emotional numbness, Beth wonders what role she plays in this classic story gone awry. A hilarious and heart-wrenching exploration of grief and perseverance on the road to acceptance.
Casting: 4W, 4M, 4 Any (Flexible, 8-16 actors possible)
A group of students gets up in the morning, jumping into the expected cycle of every school day–but today, the school they go to is part of a larger, terrifying cycle of mass shootings. In a series of connected scenes and monologues that occur before, during, and after the event, young people of all stripes piece together what is happening and why. Some students reach out to loved ones, while others help each other through panic. Some imagine their futures–if they live to see them–and some piece together what has happened in the frantic moments afterwards. With fire, humor, and power, Declaration gives students a voice to ask whether the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can be fulfilled, crouched behind a barricaded classroom door.
Casting: 6W, 6M, 10 Any (Flexible, 10-55 actors possible)
In the midst of a bombed-out city still feeling the aftershocks of war, the rebellious and intense Antigone defies her uncle to bury her disgraced brother. This contemporary response to the myth of Antigone brings powerful, modern prose to an ancient and universal story.
Casting: 3W, 1M (Flexible, 4-11 actors possible)
It’s no wonder Emily can’t sleep. She obsesses about awkward interactions in the past, she tries to predict the disasters of the future – and then, of course, there’s three immortal witches sabotaging her drama club production of Macbeth so they can escape the mortal realm. You know, life stuff. But when the witches send strange visions to turn Emily and her new classmates against each other, no one can predict what happens next. Before the charm’s wound up, all will face their fears in this tale of loyalty, anxiety, Skittles, and doom.
Casting: 6W, 8 Any (Flexible, 12-40 actors possible)
Pre-approved for competition cuts
Want to perform a one-act version of your favorite show for a night in the auditorium or to take on the road to ITF or UIL? Here are some plays that have been pre-approved for competition cuts. Search by title and apply for rights here.
Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Diary of Anne Frank (Goodrich, Hackett)
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself)