Introduction

Here is the introduction to the parallel print volume, 1/2/3/4 for the Show: A Guide to Small-Cast One-Act Plays, published by Scarecrow Press, Inc., ISBN 0-8108-2985-1.


The following explains organizational principles of the print volume, many of which also apply to this on-line iteration.

Definitions

The term small-cast herein means four or fewer actors. It ignores supernumeraries, that is, extras or chorus necessary or unnecessary for production.

The term one-act alludes to the published/unpublished, produced/unproduced text of a dramatic performance entity short enough to stand alone but generally given as part of a larger bill onstage or in other media. It sometimes also alludes to the image record of such an entity for any transmission or playback medium (which opens the field of half-hour TV dramas). Its relationship to the full-length play is analogous to the short story-novel relationship.

A few other definitions may help the reader. Throughout this guide, one-act, play, playscript, and script are synonyms, to alleviate repetition. Abbreviations for cast size and gender are joined into one term, such as 1m (one male), 1f (one female), 1m3f (one male and three females), and so on.; offstage voices and extras are usually noted but not counted in cast size. The Glossary of Genres helps to explain theatrical jargon. Annotations in the Source Directory for Scripts and the Bibliography frequently include subjective comments intended to help the user.

Contents
Title Index 1
Author Index 103
Glossary of Genres 167
Playbills with Script Analyses 173
Source Directory for Scripts 259
Bibliography 265
Sample Entries

The Title Index lists one-act plays alphabetically by title, with author, cast size and gender, and source(s). Here are two samples with interpretations:
Title Index Sample A
"All Strange Away," a drama by Samuel Beckett, 1m, (published with and can pair with "Ohio Impromptu," "A Piece of Monologue," or "Rockaby") in Rockaby and Other Short Pieces, SF 18643, NSHS 27753

Interpretation: The title is "All Strange Away." The genre is drama. The author is Samuel Beckett. The cast size is one. The gender of the role is male. The play comes from Rockaby and Other Short Pieces, in which appear three other small-cast one-act plays that suit a bill on which this play might appear. The vendor is Samuel French, Inc., which tags it by the number 18643. The script is in the special theatre collection at North Salinas High School, where it is available for reading (see page 259); the accession number there is 27753. No International Standard Book Number is available.

Title Index Sample B

"Eat Cake," a drama by Jean-Claude Van Itallie, 1m1f, (published with and can pair with "The Girl and the Soldier," "Harold," "Photographs: Mary and Howard," "Rosary," or "Thoughts on the Instant of Greeting a Friend on the Street") in Seven Short and Very Short Plays, DPS 4726, NSHS pb65

Interpretation: The title is "Eat Cake." The genre is drama. The author is Jean-Claude Van Itallie. The cast size/gender is one male and one female. The play comes from Seven Short and Very Short Plays, in which are five other small-cast one-act plays that suit a bill on which this play might appear. The vendor is Dramatists Play Service, Inc., which tags it by the number 4726. The script is in the special theatre collection at North Salinas High School, where it is available for reading (see page 259); the accession number there is pb65. Neither International Standard Book Number nor Library of Congress number is available.

Library of Congress numbers appear in this guide only when no identifying International Standard Book Number is available and when the Library of Congress number is available.

Author Index

lists one-act plays alphabetically by author, with title, cast size and gender, and source(s). Here are two samples with interpretations:
Author Index Sample A
Miles, Keith, "Dostoevsky," a drama, 1m1f, (published with and can pair with "Chekhov") in Russian Masters, SF 20092, NSHS p2511, ISBN 0-573-60049-X

Interpretation: The author is Keith Miles. The title is "Dostoevsky." The genre is drama. The cast size/gender is one male and one female. The source is Russian Masters, in which volume appears one other small-cast one-act play that suits a bill on which "Dostoevsky" might appear. The vendor is Samuel French, Inc. That company tags the play by the number 20092. The script is in the special theatre collection at North Salinas High School (in Salinas, California), where it is available to the public for reading (see page 259); the accession number there is p2511. The International Standard Book Number is 0-573-60049-X.
Author Index Sample B
Foote, Horton, "The Prisoner's Song," a drama, 2m2f, in The Tears of My Sister/The Prisoner's Song/The One-Armed Man/The Land of the Astronauts, DPS 2022

Interpretation: The author is Horton Foote. The title is "The Prisoner's Song." The genre is drama. The cast size/gender is two males and two females. The source is The Tears of My Sister/The Prisoner's Song/The One-Armed Man/The Land of the Astronauts. The vendor is Dramatists Play Service, Inc. That company normally does not cite International Standard Book Numbers, and here tags the play by the number 2022. The International Standard Book Number is not available.

Glossary of Genres
section presents a small dictionary of dramaturgical terms by which playwrights and cataloguers describe types of plays.
Glossary Sample A
bizarre comedy: a play strikingly out of the ordinary treating trivial material superficially or amusingly or showing serious and profound material in a light, familiar, or satirical manner. Example: "The Lover," a bizarre comedy by Harold Pinter, 2m1f.

Interpretation: The genre term is bizarre comedy. Definition of the term is next. A specific example from the Title Index follows the definition.
Glossary Sample B
black comedy: a play essentially a comedy but emphasizing outrageous, serious elements. Example: "Play for Germs," a black comedy by Israel Horovitz, 2m.

Interpretation: The genre term is black comedy. Definition of the term is next. A specific example from the Title Index follows the definition.

Playbills with Script Analyses
section presents a menu of twenty-seven suggested theme programs, followed by eighty one-page script analyses. Sample A proposes a program of four one-act plays on the theme of ambition.
Playbills Sample A

Ambition

"Comanche Cafe," new revised version of a drama by William Hauptman, 2f, ISBN 0-573-62131-4, in Domino Courts/Comanche Cafe, SF 5686, NSHS pb91
"Queens of France," a satiric comedy by Thornton Wilder, 1m3f, SF 886, NSHS pb7963
"Lip Service," a drama by Howard Korder, 2m, in "The Middle Kingdom," and "Lip Service": Two Short Plays, SF 14166, NSHS 27513
"Twelve-Pound Look, The," a comedy by J. M. Barrie, 2m2f, BP, SF 1095, NSHS 19878, NSHS 19883

Interpretation: These four plays form a viable bill united by the theme of ambition. They may be presented to good effect in the order given. The program would run under two hours with a single intermission between the second and third plays.
Playbills Sample B

Death

"Death of the Hired Man, The," a drama by Jay Reid Gould from Robert Frost, 2m2f, DPC D13, HDS, NSHS 6071
"Other Player, The," a drama by Owen G. Arno, 3m or 3f, DPS 3550, NSHS pb7344
"Phoenix Too Frequent, A," a comedy by Christopher Fry, 1m2f, DPS, HDS

Interpretation: These three plays form a viable bill united by the theme of death. They may be presented to good effect in the order given. The program would run under two hours with a single intermission between the second and third plays. (The key to source abbreviations begins on p. 259.)
Analyses
Analyses of eighty one-act plays follow. For each analysis, headers handily display cast size and gender and specifies genre. The cast list (dramatis personae) clarifies gender and age. Sometimes, one must infer these important details; that accounts for the use of about in some designations of age or for the omission of a precise age. Statements of place(s) and time(s) of the action follow. (Authors sometimes do not clarify place and time, choosing to leave specificity to the director.) Bibliographical data identifies the given play.

The primacy of having appropriate talent for any role should be self-evident; a director would never attempt the play Hamlet without having an actor capable of playing Hamlet. On the other hand, actors need to stretch in order to grow, and a caring director will cast an actor who is nearly ready, who can grow into a role by the time the play opens. Each of the eighty plays has a plot synopsis and evaluation to assist casting and production. The synopsis captures the step-by-step forward motion of the story. The evaluations variously consider the Aristotelian elements of plot (plausibility and effectiveness), character (credibility and progression), thought (themes), diction (language), music (aural poetry), and spectacle (visual esthetics). Also, they consider production challenges.

Source Directory for Scripts
lists sources for all plays cited and even lists other sources that might supply plays not cited in this guide.

Bibliography
documents origins of data used in this guide. Annotations expand information about a source, giving helpful supplementary knowledge and evaluations. The Bibliography has two sections: (a) primary citations, which are non-playscript annotated sources; and (b) secondary citations, which are non-playscript unannotated sources recommended for related research.
Choice of a Script
Although one may have too little time to find the right script, such an important choice, really an artistic marriage, requires care.

Bennett Cerf, in At Random (1977), tells of an unprepared commitment by America's foremost playwright. Eugene O'Neill's drinking often led to blackouts; in fact, in 1909 his first marriage had resulted from one. He woke up in some flophouse with a girl in bed next to him, and he said, "Who the hell are you?" and she said, "You married me last night." [Donald Hall, ed., The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 230.]

An artistic commitment, as does marriage, severely commits time and energies. May this guide help the user find the most appropriate script to enjoy a felicitous commitment or, maybe, even to live happily ever after.