As much as the Bard has a well-cemented place in the school curriculum, it’s fair to say that if your secondary school students are studying Macbeth in English literature, then they probably won’t want to be reciting Shakespearian prose in drama too.

The truth is, no matter how studious 11-16 years olds are, if the poignant classics are being covered in other subjects, then drama classes and am-dram groups are the outlet where you can afford to break the mould. Offering modern material has a wealth of benefits for teenagers, giving them the chance to act out the books, films and Broadway plays they love whilst getting involved in the type of issues that can affect them on a daily basis.

From plays covering sexuality to those focusing on autism spectrum disorders, fresh and modern plays offer the entertainment factor students crave and can highlight serious topics too– ideal if this is something you would like to work on with your group.

Raising issues of acceptance and diversity: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon’s popular novel has proved to be a hit on stage, winning 7 Olivier Awards and receiving a flood of 5 star reviews. Although the main character is a 15 year old boy, The Curious Incident is truly a play for all and if you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, it promises to be a tale like no other!

It is assumed that 15 year old Christopher suffers from Asperger syndrome, despite the fact that Mark Haddon never makes reference to this in the book. Instead, Haddon explains that before writing the book he had very little knowledge of autism spectrum disorders and instead created the character based on somebody he knew.

Christopher is a mathematical genius but struggles with the intricacies of daily life. After finding his neighbour’s murdered dog, Christopher embarks on a quest to determine the culprit, both finding the perpetrator and uncovering a number of secrets and lies his parents have kept from him.

Aside from the obvious current popularity of the play, the storyline has been praised for exploring autism spectrum disorders. If you have an autistic student in your group then you’ll be aware that integration can be more challenging, so plays that explore these issues can help foster understanding amongst your students.

Horror: The Bottom of the Lake

Horror plays are distinctly lacking in the truly terrifying sense, which is shame considering how wildly popular zombie dramas and paranormal films have become! The Bottom of the Lake is the ultimate ghost story bonanza, with mysterious ladies, terrifying urban legends and good dash of romance thrown in for good measure.

When Dani gets lost in the woods, she comes across a group of girls from another summer camp. On the hunt for ghosts, Dani is told a terrifying tale about a spectre rumoured to haunt the town. Going from meaty scene to meaty scene, The Bottom of the Lake continues to deliver shocks and thrills throughout – perfect if you’re looking to avoid drawn-out cliff hangers!

With a cast earmarked for girls, this would be an ideal play for a girls’ schools, but that isn’t to say the parts can’t be easily adapted for a unisex cast too

Love and Dating: Prom Night

Most secondary schools tend to have huge ‘social’ divides between students, with quieter students sticking together and louder, more boisterous students grouping together. Call these groups what you will (‘goth’ ‘emo’ and ‘chav’ come to mind!) but if you’re trying to promote integration in your school then American-style teenage romance Prom Night exposes the futility of cliques.

In a classic tales of unpopular meets popular, Prom Night tells the tale of a boy and girl who meet on prom night – after having an awful time with their own dates. Exposing the ‘real’ people behind the stereotypical exterior, this rom-com is a great way of breaking down those barriers so prevalent in secondary schools. The glamour aspect of this play should also appeal to teenagers – it’s a great excuse to dress up to the nines!

There are plenty of fresh plays out there for your students to sink their teeth into, but we just had to cover these three for their teen-appeal. Have you found that a play works particularly well with your secondary school students? We’d love to know in the comments section.

If you’d like to update your existing stage system or install a new performance area for your school productions, then please get in touch with our team at PG Stage for professional lighting services, sound equipment and stage design.


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