This guide should help anyone seeking a small-cast one-act play. It focuses on that particular dramatic format.
Small-cast here means four or fewer roles in a script. One-act means staging the play without an internal intermission (and probably as a part of a theatrical bill).
First use of this guide can prove its value. The user, perhaps a producer, dramaturg, actor, librarian, teacher, or reader seeking a specific cast size, can go to the Title Index and find appropriate classic and modern plays in a variety of genres. Or, armed with the name of the playwright, the user can go to the Author Index and find which playwright offers what in the small-cast one-act format.
Producers of one-act programs can find suggested theme-related plays with analyses in the Playbills section.
Dramaturgs (individuals responsible for locating scripts for theatre-group study and/or production) can find thousands of play possibilities.
Actors can find a lifetime of scripts.
Librarians not specializing in dramatic literature have here a unique bibliographical resource to complement play indexes with which they might be familiar.
Teachers of German, Spanish, ethnic studies, speech, or dance should be able to locate resources, also.
Readers who savor the literature and entertainment of the printed playscript have access here to endless hours of pleasure.
The goal is to offer a source or a substantial lead to find any play cited. Where possible, a pairing for production of a given play with another or others is noted.
This guide augments Firkin's Index to Plays (1927) and its Supplement (1935), the Play Index series (1949 through 1992), and McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama (1972).
The continuum and much of the fun of scholarship rest on transference of information, knowledge, and wisdom from past generations to future generations. Of course, humankind's evolving significant mental capacity, developing opposing thumbs and fingers, long-term nurturing of offspring, building communities, walking upright, and communicating first with speech and ultimately with writing and technology all underpin this ability to learn from the past generations for the present generation's advantage. And, of course, with that advantage goes responsibility. Scholars look beyond past and present to the future.
Guides like Small-Cast One-Act Guide On-line and its print complement, 1/2/3/4/ for the Show, bring accumulated information to present attention. But the user's recourse to this guide almost always has the motivation of future activity. Some future scholar might add this guide to information derived elsewhere and present it anew in the continuum of scholarship.
Hence, the accuracy of data in this or any guide is fundamental. Here, although Scarecrow Press, Inc., SCESCAPE, Inc, the author/webmaster/owner, and other participants cannot be held legally liable for errors which may have occurred, the extreme precautions taken in research and multiple proofreadings have produced, it is hoped, trustworthy accuracy. I bear the academic responsibility and ask forbearance of any mistakes. I invite the user to communicate to me corrections for a future edition.
Because locating scripts is so important yet often so difficult, the counterpart print volume presents carefully, when possible, supplies source(s) valid as of July, 1994; this on-line iteration presents sources as recent as the latest update noted at the bottom of the page. In some instances, the contact cited may prove to be but a lead to the ultimate source. Only persistence and sufficient time for research may reach the ultimate source.
Guides to dramatic literature frequently do not satisfy the searcher. The dramaturg may not even know guides exist; equally often, the librarian does not know how the contents of the guides can best help the dramaturg.
An interesting analysis of this dilemma appears in the Winter, 1989, issue of RQ. Beginning on page 248 (of volume 29) is L. A. Hitchcock's "The Play's the Thing . . . If You Can Find It! An Assessment of Play Indexes." This intensive analysis of various play indexes argues that ready reference on this subject is an uncertain venture; guides have such serious gaps that the researcher must proceed with caution.
The scope of this guide focuses tightly on small-cast one-act plays, drawing broadly from history and geography. It includes plays for children and adults, plays published alone or in collections, and plays for stage, broadcast, and puppetry. When reliable sources could be established, it includes unpublished manuscripts.
Inclusion is neither selective nor judgmental. It merely reflects what has come to attention during research. Of course, there remains a vast, unrevealed body of one-act plays for future research.
Short performed narratives_one might call them one-act plays_hark back to the origins of theatre and possess a noble history. At first they, in effect, were the literature of theatre: all plays were short. The professional stage in the twentieth century infrequently and erratically has used one-act plays. Cinema in the 1930s tried short narrative movies as fillers to precede feature attractions but failed to establish a surviving art form. By the 1940s, television thrived on scripts suited to its nearly-half-hour or nearly-hour time segments. Television consumed scripts almost faster than the supply allowed; program managers had to forage far and wide to fill the maw. In what some broadcast media historians deem television's Golden Age, the 1950s, the new medium established and honored the under-one-hour teleplay, even gave much of it literary value. Although professional theatre since the mid-1800s has ventured one-acts as curtain raisers, entr'actes, and artistic experiments, it has not quite known what to do with the form. Yet, for a variety of reasons, established playwrights as well as novices persist in writing short plays. Presentation festivals do occur here and there, on the off-, off-off-, and off-off-off-Broadway fringes of professional theatre districts and in regional theatre. Educational theatre in the United States, however, has given one-acts a home.
Internationally, small-cast one-act plays abound but not in a single reference. This guide includes a measure of those resources. It cites translations into English as well as non-English-language scripts, addressing multicultural and trans-border needs.
A look at the past and present begs a look at the future. The one-act play persists, despite the ignorance of many and the biases of others. Those who do not know the scope and quality of its vast literature can hardly be blamed for overlooking its present usefulness and its potential.
The process of compiling this guide has stimulated insights. So, first follow (A) disjointed thoughts marked by bullets; then follow (B) a few coherent considerations.
One wonders about the demographics of play readers, playgoers, or play producers. Present research has encountered no concise source of such statistics. Logically, each constituency has its own priorities; they collectively still have common ground: finding the right script at the right time for the right need. If only more of them knew of one-act guides!
The future is bright. Electronic access such as this site will solve most of the problems Hitchcock in his aforementioned interesting analysis found about print access. UseNet, currently the most popular Internet service, serves millions of users daily. The term UseNet describes a mechanism supporting discussion groups (newsgroups), several of which focus on theatre. Of the newsgroups that form, many fade, but some persist as valuable fora. Anyone with access can pose a thought or question and receive pertinent responses. Frequently, users seek script evaluations and sources. The exchange is exciting, and electronic access promises to become a major theatre resource. E-mail inquiries about this newest aid will receive prompt attention through email@example.com.
Moreover, full-text access to a growing number of published and unpublished scripts is available through file transfer protocol (FTP) on the Internet. As with questions about theatre newsgroups, e-mail inquiries about FTP will receive prompt attention through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accuracy of existing guides probably is at the norm for other reference books. Limitations of the guides, though, include scope, depth of item coverage, identification of genre, currency, language provincialism, as well as information about sources for scripts and production rights (especially international sources).
The motion picture and television industries have belatedly established foundations to preserve significant parts of their history, such as scripts. Scattered theatre librarians have established valuable collections, but their attention to the one-act form is incidental. A foundation dedicated to that form would be a pioneering venture.
Small-Cast One-Act Guide On-line focuses on script access through cyberspace; whereas, 1/2/3/4/ for the Show focuses on script access through print. One must look, also, to other media. The advent of inexpensive high-quality videotaping has created a library of one-act productions, a resource almost totally overlooked. Probably, few people have given much thought to secondary school and college or university drama departments all across America routinely recording their shows. What local use is made of these tapes thereafter is problematical, and wide distribution is rare. Somehow, this resource should be catalogued in a guide. Then, for whatever purposes, everyone interested could consider these one-act productions, scattered though they probably will remain, tantamount to a special library. Furthermore, technology for on-line access to recorded images already exists. A dedicated scholar could devise a guide to taped productions of these one-acts and spur interest in placing on a network these resources.
Paralleling the publishing industry's trend toward giantism (that is, larger companies getting larger and smaller companies struggling to hold on), the field of one-act publishing has its few large houses dominating, even getting better, with sundry outland small presses somehow managing. Desktop publishing has the potential to reshape this niche of the publishing industry if distribution and publicity problems can be surmounted.
One-act guides can educate a public that wants relatively short plays about how to access them. As the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and similar publications have led their users to access information in periodicals, so guides in the one-act play field lead their users to discover the vast international existence of scripts and lead them to access the scripts they want.
Also, now that on-line and CD-ROM access to periodical literature has proved serviceable and lucrative, companies can offer guides to one-act plays in electronic-access formats. Dramatists Play Service Home Page has blazed the trail.
Meanwhile, one hopes the user can profit from the print guide's eighty descriptions of scripts and from the Title Index and Author Index in 1/2/3/4 for the Show. The goal, of course, is to find the right script at the right time for the right need.
In 1947, students under my direction acted in a two-character one-act production during a festival sponsored by the University of North Carolina Playmakers, in Chapel Hill. That production, begun as an extracurricular lark, earned surprising recognition and initiated not only the actors but also their director into serious theatre. I thereby discovered the educational potential in producing one-act plays. The guide draws upon forty-seven years of theatre experience and study by this writer.
Subsequently educated in the graduate program in theatre of the Carolina Playmakers, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, I have taught drama and directed plays in North Carolina, Montana, and California; in Germany and Mexico; and in high schools, community colleges, universities, and community theatres. I possess a bachelor of arts degree in English from UNC/Chapel Hill, a master's degree in library and information science from San Jose State University, and a doctorate in speech and drama from Stanford University; this background affords library and theatre skills bearing upon this guide.
In the 1980s, to help directors needing small-cast one-act plays for production, I developed a card index of over two thousand citations. Those original citations have been greatly amplified and appear here as the Title Index and its permutation, the Author Index.
The specialized collection of theatre materials within the general holdings of the library of North Salinas High School, Salinas, California, has increased since I succeeded Grete Flores there in 1985 as librarian. My personal collection of several hundred theatre books, with an emphasis on small-cast one-act plays, now belongs to the North Salinas High School library. This special collection, exceeding four thousand items in 1995, contains copies of the eighty scripts analyzed in Part 4, Playbills with Script Analyses, as well as copies of numerous additional scripts suggested for consideration in Part 1, Title Index, or Part 2, Author Index. The public may access this collection upon request to the librarian; the address is in Part 5, Source Directory for Scripts.
Writing the print guide lasted from February, 1992, to August, 1995. Formatting employed PageMaker 5.0 for Microsoft Windows 3.1, a page-layout computer program. Writing and formatting used a USM Mach 486DX33 computer. Printing photoready page masters employed a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 4.
Writing and managing the on-line guide began mid-February, 1996, and continues.
This Website continues under construction and welcomes new citations and comments.
Page updated April 13, 1996, by the site Webmaster.
Quick Connections to Major Sections of this Guide
| Welcome | Contents | Acknowledgments |
| Foreword | Preface | Introduction |
| Author Index | Cast Size/Gender Index | Title Index |
| Glossary of Genres | Bibliography for Playwrights | Playbills by Themes |
| Eighty Script Analyses (in Print Volume) | Source Directory for Scripts |
| Visits Counter | Success Stories |
| Form for Submitting New Citation | | Form for Ordering 1/2/3/4 for the Show |
| Present Web Links | Adding Web Links |
| Guest Book | Disclaimer | General Bibliography |
| About the Author |
Quick Connections to Cast Size/Gender Menus
| One-Male Plays | One-Female Plays |
| One-Male-One-Female Plays | Two-Male Plays | Two-Female Plays |
| One-Male-Two-Female Plays | Two-Male-One-Female Plays | Three-Male Plays |
| Three-Female Plays |
| One-Male-Three-Female Plays | Two-Male-Two-Female Plays |
| Three-Male-One-Female Plays | Four-Male Plays | Four-Female Plays |
Small-Cast One-Act Guide On-line
complements the print volume