Thespian Lifestyle

5 Funny Plays for High Schoolers With a Sense of Humor

No matter how much we love what we teach, there are simply some words that will have our students groaning like a herd of seriously ticked-off alpacas. And unfortunately, “theatre” is often one of those words.

Honestly? I can’t really blame the kids. If I think back on my own English classes, the theatre units usually consisted of students sitting in a circle reading lines that sounded like they were written eons ago. The tests were hard, and the VHS tapes were filled with mediocre actors and terrible special effects. At the end of the class, I could tell you the names of the characters and the basic plot of the play, but not what any of it meant.

And what was the point?

Too often, we make the mistake of tossing our students headfirst into Shakespeare rather than starting with content that is relatable, accessible, and engaging. If we don’t show our students what the theatre was meant to be, how can we expect them to want to be part of it?

We live in the “Age of Now”. Movies are accessed instantly through our phones and our televisions. Commercial breaks can be bypassed for a measly $2.99/month. And movie theatres are just an Uber ride away. What could possibly be so special about a play? You can just read it, right? The idea that the plays were, at one time or another, the main form of entertainment is crazy to a student who has the internet in their pocket.

So, how do we get our kiddos excited about reading/analyzing/acting out plays? We start with the fun ones! So here are five seriously funny plays for high schoolers with a sense of humor.

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As a teacher, I believe with all my heart that the following plays will:

• Help you scaffold your content as you build from contemporary to Shakespearean-era content

• Convince your students that plays are basically movies on paper

• Provide accessible content for even the most skeptical thespians in your classroom

• Get students moving and engaging with the material

1. The Utterly Insidious and Terrifying Truth About Cat Hair

by Bradley Walton

In a not-so-far-off dystopian world, one enemy prevails: cat hair! It’s easy for students to have “tunnel vision” when it comes to theatre. They generally come into our classrooms believing they already know what plays are about: Shakespeare, dead people, and words we don’t use anymore. This one-act play is sure to snap them out of their Shakespeare-only mindsets and get them up out of their seats as the characters in Walton’s story team up to beat this feline-ish fiend!

The Absolutely Insidious and Utterly Terrifying Truth About Cat Hair.

2. The Baloney, the Pickle, the Zombies, and Other Things I Hide From My Mother

by Bradley Walton

What’s a science-loving-self-proclaimed “nerd” to do with his spare time? Conduct secret experiments in his basement, obviously. Too bad Trevor’s latest trick (transforming baloney into zombies) has backfired. Hoping to sell the zombies off as cheap workers, he’s forgotten one thing: baloney has an expiration date! This play is outrageously funny and engaging for both middle and high school kiddos. And it’s the perfect way to demonstrate that theatre was not designed to be a homework assignment, but rather entertainment!

The Baloney, the Pickle, the Zombies, and Other Things I Hide From My Mother.

3. The Art of Rejection

by Christian Kiley

So, technically, this counts as two plays, or at least, two one-act plays that can either be performed as a cohesive unit or individually if you’re crunched for time. Kiley’s play takes place in a high school, and as a result, there’s a whole lot of teenage shenanigans and passive-aggressive mean girls that students will immediately relate to They’ll surely laugh at the ridiculousness of the protagonist’s pursuit of popularity.

BONUS: it’s a great way to introduce satire and allegory.

The Art of Rejection.

4. Anger Management

by Lindsay Price

This 10-minute play is a MUST-READ in every theatre unit. It basically serves as a synopsis of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, as Juliet and Ophelia full-on rant about how terribly their lives turned out. Say what you want about the “i-Gen,” but they are a generation filled with compassion and a strong will to advocate for the oppressed. What better way to engage students in centuries-old stories than by helping them see that the things Ophelia and Juliet dealt with are still happening today? I loved using these to get students familiar with Shakespearean language and historic context.

Ten Minute Play Series.

5. Much Ado About Nothing (Abridged)

by William Shakespeare / John Minigan

You made it: Your kiddos are FINALLY taking on Shakespeare! One of the happiest accidents of my first theatre unit was choosing an abridged version of a Shakespearean play I’d never read before. Because we’d practiced “translating” Shakespearean text already, the language was accessible for my kiddos. And they nearly lost their minds laughing at the insults they got to hurl at one another in this play.

Much Ado About Nothing Abridged.

Have you tried out any of these funny plays for high schoolers?

How did it go? And which one was your favorite? We would also love to hear all about your own favorite funny plays for high schoolers in the comments below. And in the meantime, you might also enjoy reading our related posts on “Six Powerful Acting Exercises for Teenagers” and “Audition Songs for Teens“!

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Headshot of Hannah Oxley, Author of Funny Plays for High Schoolers.
Author: Hannah Oxley

Hannah Oxley is a teacher, a blogger, and an avid reader. When she’s not working on her first middle-grade novel, she can be found sipping coffee at her favorite independent bookstore or roaming the aisles of Trader Joes.


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