Friday, June 27, 2008

Acting Out

Chanda, Justin (Ed.) 2008. Acting Out. New York: Atheneum.

Acting Out is a compilation of six plays by noted children’s authors, Avi, Susan Cooper, Sharon Creech, Patricia MacLachlan, Katherine Paterson, and Richard Peck. Besides being written by talented authors, the plays have something else in common. Using a technique used in improvisational acting, editor Justin Chanda asked each author to submit a word that must be used in each play. The resulting words, hoodwink, dollop, raven, knuckleball, panhandle, and Justin appear in every play. Part of the fun is noting how the author works in the unusual additions.

Note how “raven” appears in Richard Peck’s play, “Effigy in the Outhouse,” which takes place in the year 1910. One of his characters, Edna, the eldest and bossiest student in the one-room school house, yells out, “Stop all your rantin’ and raven. I declare, you’re all like hogs turned into an orchard.”

The plays are varied in style and content. The plays are mysterious, life-like, whimsical, environmental, historical, and more. Although Richard Peck’s humorous look at children in a one-room schoolhouse is my favorite, Sharon Creech’s spoof on the publishing industry is a hoot as well! A young Edgar Allen Poe, is trying to seal a deal with a modern day publisher,

TRISH: Ah yes, strategies, et cetera. The two-word title is OUT. Out, out, out!
POE: Out?
TRISH: Quite, Out. Your use of “The” is fine, mind you. Absolutely terrific! But we need “The something-something.” You follow? … “The Raven Code,” perhaps? “The Raven KNUCKLEBALL”? Or better yet. “Something-something and the something-something.” Let’s say “Polly Raven and the Silver Chalice, “ mm?

This book is perfect for older reader’s theater groups or school groups. A note of caution, though – although its title is Acting Out, any group wishing to perform these plays, must obtain written permission from the publishers. Performance rights will, however, be granted without charge to non-profit groups.

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