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How To Write a Play~~Plot, Pro/Antagonist, Conflict

Whether you are a reader or a writer you love a little conflict and a few antagonists in any plot. So to the writers of stage plays.

It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there to tell the story with their body language but….

I am going to use examples from my most recent play. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are not less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. 

Sub-PLOT:  The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. In Emma and the Aardvarks the plot begins on the first page of script. Two Aardvarks, sisters, tumble out of a Time Portal and into the fabled forest. In minutes the occupants of the forest discover them and the audience discovers the protagonists and antagonists. 

Example: (Plot)

                                                         AGNES  ©
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)

I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.

            ANNIE
(Frowning.)

Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

                                                            STARE (Owl)

Whooo?

                                                            ANNIE
                                                (ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?                                                       
                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            AGNES

What?                                                           

                                                            ANNIE

That.
                                                            AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

                                                           ANNIE

I don’t like this place, Agnes.

                                                            AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

                        (DONALD, a fairie, enters.)

                                                            DONALD

                         Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

(With the dialogue, we’ve told the audience that the two sisters are in the forest by accident. That their destination had been Australia. They meet their first friend (protagonist). 

ANTAGONISTS: We’ll return to the plot later but let’s go on…Enter the first antagonist. This character is very selfish and immediately is suspicious of the two newcomers.

Example: (Antagonist)

                                                                  PATSY (Banana Spider)
                                                (Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

                                                            DONALD

Patsy, where are your manners? Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace.

                                                            PATSY

Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, pequeño? Se ven como bandidos!

Another Protagonist enters:

                                                             EMMA

Please join us. (Turning to Donald.)  Donald introduce us immediately.

                                                            DONALD

Miss Agnes, Miss Annie, this is my friend, Emma.

                                                            EMMA

Oh! You are so cute. It’s nice to meet new friends.  And such pretty hats. May I? (EMMA reached up and adjusted the frothy thing atop AGNES’ head that had been knocked askew in the mad dash into the forest.) You’re the shy young lady, aren’t you? May I adjust your hat, Miss Annie? There! All fixed. May I ask? What species are you?

PLOT: After a few main characters are established, we  return to the main Plot, (all told through dialogue) which is about global warming and endangered species. 

Example (Plot):  

                                                             EMMA 

Miss Agnes, why were you going to Australia?

                                                            AGNES

Back home, in Africa, we are losing our habitat to humans, farms, and roads.

                                                            ANNIE

It’s terrible. There aren’t very many of us aardvarks left, you know.

                                                            CHEETS

What does that mean? ‘Not many of you left’?

                                                            AGNES

We’re being killed off.

                                                            EMMA 

Oh no! But you’re so cute. And if you’re insectivores, you help keep the natural world balanced.

                                                            AGNES

One would think so. (Beat.) So when our habitat goes, we go. We are threatened.

                                                            DONALD

We must do something!

ANTAGONIST & Protagonists:  The Plot thickens when you have more than one antagonist. And when you can, more than one protagonist.

Example (Antagonist and Protagonists.): 

                                                           CHEETS

I don’t like them. Nope. Don’t like the look of them and they smell funny.

                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            CHEETS

Those two⸺whad-ya-call-ems.

                                                           EMMA

Aardvarks.

                                                            CHEETS

Yeah⸺them.

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s unkind. You know nothing of Annie and Agnes. They seem perfectly fine to me. In fact, I think they’re cute.

                                                            STARE
                                                           
Who?

                                                            THOMAS

Quiet, Stare. Those two ladies are my friends from the Dark Continent.  As for you, you⸺you scurvy young scallywag you keep yer opinions to yerself.

                                                            CHEETS

But what if they eat someone we know?

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s silly. Do you know any ants? Beetles? Termites on a personal basis?

                                                            CHEETS

Noooo⸺but I might meet some.

                                                              EMMA

Yes, Cheets, you’re judging these newcomers and deciding you don’t like them based on⸺what? Nothing.

                                                            THOMAS

They’ve had a rough go. The place they lived is no more. The picaroons have burned it, then planted it. Some of their family and friends have been killed.

                                                             CHEETS

Don’t care. Still don’t like ‘em. Who ever heard of aardvarks, anyway?

CONFLICT: 5 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Story:
Give your characters clear goals.
Go big, go small. 
Let your characters fail. 
4. Make your characters opinionated. 
Use exposition to your advantage.

The Time Portal is malfunctioning. Some of the occupants of the forest are welcoming, some are suspicious and angry. 

Example:                                           EMMA

He’s very excitable, Miss Agnes. Are you really from Africa?

                                                            ANNIE
                                    (Cuddling close to EMMA’s side.)

Yes, Miss Emma, we were going on vacation and then this⸺happened.

                                                            EMMA

Oh, dear, I’m sorry.

                                                            AGNES

Yes, our travel agent, Time Portal for All Your Vacation Needs, was supposed to send us to Australia. We have distant relatives there. Something must have gone wrong. Someone at the agency pushed the wrong button.

                                                            ANNIE

Where are we, exactly?

                                                            CHEETS
                                    (Poking HIS head out of the bushes.)

You’re in the Fabled Forest. Don’t you know anything?                                                           

                                                            AGNES 

Who raised you? Dogs?  (Beat.) No, not dogs, they are strict with their children. Hyenas, perhaps? Yes, hyenas, our arch enemies. 

More CONFLICT: 
Example: 

                                                          EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES
                                                         (Sneering.)

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

Resolution of CONFLICT: The royal engineer enters. Sent to repair the Time Portal so the Aardvarks can be on their way.

 Example:     

                                                                CHEETS
                                                (Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

                                                            FERGUS
                                                     (Looking around.)

No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.

                                                            EMMA

Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?

                                                            FERGUS

It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.

                                                            DONALD

And you’re here because⸺?

                                                            FERGUS

To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

                                                            DONALD

Our portal?                                                     

                                                            CHEETS
                                                     (Whispers in awe.)

We have a portal?                                                           

                                                            EMMA

And the Queen knew ours is broken?

                                                            CHEETS

What’s a portal?                                                         

                                                            FERGUS

Yes. Yes. Indubitably. If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.

                                                            EMMA
I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest. Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.

More CONFLICT: More animals arrive through the Portal. This results in more conflict.

Example: 

                                                             EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

                                                              FERGUS

Blimey. Someone’s coming.

                                    (Out of the entrance to the Portal tumble dog-like CREATURES. The five PUPPIES yip and howl as they tumble to the                                          forest floor.)

                                                            MIC
                                                        (Howling.)

Moommmyy! What’s happening?                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI
                                                            (Howling louder.)

Moommmyy! I’m a-scarrr-eeddd.

                                                            STARE
                                                (Trying to join the howling.)

Whooooooooooooo?

                                    (Two adult DOGS enter from the Portal mouth.)

                                                            MRS. MOSEYALONG
                   Tentatively wagging HER tail.)

It’s all right, children. We’re safe.

                                                            JAX

Stop being such a baby, Serengeti.

                                                            SERENGETI
              (Cowering near HER mother’s legs.)

I’m not.
                                                            JAX

Are too.

                                                           MR. MOSEYALONG

Quiet now, children.                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI

Yes, Papa.

                                                            MIC

Where are we, Papa?

                                                   MR. MOSEYALONG

I’m not certain just yet⸺but I intend to find out!  Yip, Yip, yowwww.

                                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG                                

Goodness, who might you all be?

                                                            ROGER
                                                            (Whining.)

Mama, who are they? Will they hurt us?                                               

                                                            ZEKE
                                                (Yipping and howling.)

I want to go home.

                                                            CHEETS
                                                (Pointing at the dogs.)

Look! Our forest is turning into a jungle of expired animals!

Remember, dialog is simply conversation between your characters. In your story, imagine what your characters would say to each other in a conversation. The more conflict you create in your story, the richer the story will be. Be aware of ‘loose ends’ when you solve the conflict.
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A NEW Children’s Play~~Book Give-a-Way

              CLIMATE CHANGE. ENDANGERED SPECIES have all come to the Fabled forest. In this sixth script in the series, Emma, Donald, Thomas, Cheets and Stare all return (to the story) to meet their visitors and try to help them. 

~~THE FIRST THREE DIRECTORS/TEACHERS THAT CONTACT ME WILL RECEIVE A FREE COPY OF THE NEW SCRIPT. 

Synopsis: 

This is a fable about climate change and endangered creatures. Two sisters Aardvarks arrive in the Fabled Forest by accident. Their travel agent, Time Portals to Your Next Adventure, malfunctions and instead of Australia, they are plopped down in Cheets’ clearing in the forest. Here they meet Donald, the fairie, Cheets, the elf, Emma, the farm-girl and all the creatures that inhabit the fabled, mystical forest. Agnes and Annie are so ugly they’re cute. With their jaunty hats atop their weird heads, with their rabbit-like ears and short elephant type snouts, Emma and Donald are entranced. They set about helping the two aardvarks to complete their trip to Australia while helping other endangered species.

The Aardvarks and the Painted Wild Dogs are endangered species and it is a dangerous lifestyle. In this fable children learn more about climate change wiping out habitat and about other endangered species and how we humans can protect them.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Emma ~~ A young earthling girl
Stare ~~ A rhetorical owl
Donald ~~ A young fairie

Cheets ~~ a rambunctious elf
Patsy ~~ A large banana spider
Agnes & Annie ~~ the sister Aardvarks

Thomas ~~ the sea-faring sea turtle
Bertie, the bookworm ~~ the resident reading teacher

Fergus ~~ The royal engineer

Mr. Moseyalong ~~ Papa of the Painted Dogs
Mrs. Moseyalong ~~ Mama
Mic, Jax, Roger, Zeke and Serengeti ~~ the Puppies

No child need be turned away, there can be non-speaking roles as forest creatures and fairies.

TS. “We created a book cover representing the future time when our planet dies and everything is black and white. With a spot of color called hope.”
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Available now!

 

 

 

Dust Off that Play and do Some Rewrites…

Don’t be shy about looking at something you wrote a few years ago and rewriting and revising it. Most reputable publishing platforms will allow you to change the interior files and upload a revised, improved edition. I reviewed this children’s play of mine and in doing so found some editing and new writing. 

It’s October, Halloween is right around the corner. So I hauled out a play script that I wrote in 2013. Wow!  Did it need work. So I edited, did some extensive rewrites, gave it a new, more contemporary cover and then re-published. 

Synopsis: A young family rents a deserted lighthouse so that their critically ill daughter can enjoy the sea breezes and beautiful countryside. Little do they know that, for centuries, the lighthouse has been the home and is in the ‘possession’ of four outrageous spirits.  
 
Ben, an eight year old boy, has no trouble whatsoever making friends with two of the spirits, Baubles and Chaos.  The story climaxes as Claire, ill with cancer, slowly fades toward death. Baubles and Chaos have no intention of letting that happen! 

Available now!

 
While this play has it’s serious moments, for the most part, it is a comedy and makes for great fun as the spirits romp around the stage. The adults can neither see nor hear Chaos and Baubles as they converse and play with the children and terrorize a ‘Man of the Cloth’! All in innocent fun, of course!  4f. 4m. 2 children

If you’re an aspiring playwright you might want to take a look at >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Available now!

New Ten Minute Play ~~Climate Change

The  actual activists that are seated before Congress this very minute inspired this new play for the classroom. Mother Earth is dying and we have little time to correct the destructive path we, as a species, are on. Young people across the globe see, with a clear vision, what is at risk, while the ‘grownups’ dither and argue and get nothing done. 5f. 5m. 

My Planet, Your Planet, Our Planet is #35 in the series of ten minute plays for the classroom.  “G” rated and appropriate for middle school and high school. 

 

Available at all book stores and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see the entire Collection

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Available now!

 

 

 

 

Monologues for Women

I woke up one morning and thought, “I’ve got some soliloquies tucked away that would make good monologues.  This book is unique because all the contemporary monologues are original.  Directors get bored and tired of the same old shoes like speeches from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Barefoot in the Park, Streetcar Named Desire, Pygmalion, View from the Bridge and others. Make them sit up and listen when you use something they have never heard before!

And that brings me to the point that I want to share with my readers out there who are writers or want to be writers.  Previously I was talking about my digging out some old and new work and turning them into a book of monologues.  Never, never throw anything away.  Open up that dusty old box of your scribbles that you have hidden away on the top shelf of the closet.  You might be surprised what you find and how much you like it after a year, five years or ten.  “Note from a Watery Grave” which I scribbled down back in 2002?….turns out it was pretty good with some additional editing on my part.  The end result was a new book.  My motivation: as an actor, I know how hard it is to find that perfect monologue for an audition.  How difficult it is to get the director’s attention and keep it.

While compiling this book, I remembered how I would go to an audition and announce that my classical piece was going to be Anne from Richard III.  The director (or audition panel) would roll their eyes and yawn in my face.  The ‘Anne’ that they were thinking of was an old tired thing that’s been done to death, when Richard confronts Anne over the coffin.  My ‘Anne’ was a conversation that I pieced together into a soliloquy and I was certain that they had never seen.   I got the same reaction from the director every time;  they sat up and listened!  And afterwards, they laughed and told me they were expecting something else and how refreshing mine was.

A final note:  I have included not only some classics (so that your audition will show contrast in your acting ability)  but also some original monologues for the African-American actress.

Sampling from Monologues 4 Women:

MARY ELIZABETH

(The Waltz, comedic)

My first dance! My first grown-up dinner dance since I got my job in the typing pool. I haven’t been asked to dance yet…no surprise… but I don’t care. My dress is only second hand, my hair is dressed and my nails are clean. I’m just happy to be here, watching the couples twirl around the floor to the most wonderful band I’ve ever heard. Never mind it’s the first band I’ve ever heard in person.

Ooo, look at that tall handsome man walking towards me. He’s probably getting something to drink for his date.
My mother always told us girls to stand near the refreshment table so more gentlemen would notice us and ask one of us to dance. But it was always Violet that they asked; of us six girls, she’s the beauty in the family. Wait! He’s looking right at me….he caught me staring and day-dreaming. I looked down and stared at my shoes; maybe he will ignore my bad manners and continue on….oh no, he stopped! His shoes are standing right in front of me.

He speaks. ‘Excuse me, Miss Guyer?’ My chin resting on my chest I mumble, ‘yes’. He tells me his name is Arthur. Wouldn’t you know he was a namesake for a great king? He then asked, would I like to dance. I forced myself to look up, just a tiny peek before I declined. Looking into the most beautiful eyes…hazel I think it’s called, sometimes green, sometimes brown. I am lost. He’s holding out his hand and without speaking I put my hand in his and he led me to the dance floor.

The band had begun playing a waltz and Arthur smoothly led me into the dance. I guess we chat about small things. He asked where I worked in the company and then tells me he’s part of the law firm that my company retains. He tells me about his mother and four siblings. Suddenly he asked me if I intended to look at him at all before the dance was over. I realized I had been staring at his crisp white shirted chest the entire time. My eyes snap up to his face to find he was smiling…..

To purchase: click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs, September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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NEW Journal…How To Write a Play

My newest Journal created for aspiring and established PLAYWRIGHTS has just been published and can be found in your favorite bookstore. 

245+ lined, blank pages for your writing PLUS Sections with instructions on ‘how to‘. 

Section 1……How to Begin… 
Section 2……How to Write a Play… 
Section 3……Creating Rich Characters…
Section 4……Story Telling 
Section 5…… How to Block… 
Section 6…… Snappy Dialogue… 
Section 7…… Set Design… 
Section 8…… Formatting your Play… 
Section 9…… Terminology..

To Purchase 

Other custom journals for your journaling pleasure: 

 

 

 

 

How to Create a Tantalizing Book Cover 

 

What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.

 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr

 

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
 
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Need a Journal for the Creative Writer?

My dear readers and fellow creative writers, don’t forget about the wonderful journals that I have created just for you.

250+ lined, blank pages for your writings, musings, and ideas. Each blank page is embedded with an inspirational quote from a famous author, writer, actor or director.  Some ‘how to’ sections (from me) to help and inspire you to get started; either writing your first short story or beginning that new novel you’ve been prevaricating about.

How To Begin
That All Important First Sentence 

How to Choose the Subject of your Story or Playtest
Formatting your Play
How to write Dialogue
How to Create Rich, Exciting Characters for your Novel
Story Arc

“I wanna write!” “I’ve got a story.” “I’ve always wanted to write.” 
Writers write!  Full stop. Period.

 

To Purchase

 

 

 

 

…and for expectant Mommy

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire,  July: Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Book #1 (of 10)

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New Short Play: Drop the Phone

Newest in the collection of ten minute plays for teens and the classroom. 

                        What would happen if you put down your phone for a half an hour and had a real conversation with another human being? Now lets mix it up further; sit down and talk to someone in your class who you don’t really know that well or at all. Are they who you thought they were? Were they surprised about who you are? This one act play, styled for the classroom (no sets, no costumes, no props), has a group of teens who do not tweet, email, Facetime or chat on their mobile devices for one half hour. They must TALK to each other, face to (real) face.  What did you learn about the person? What did you learn about yourself? 

5f. 4m.

To Purchase

Click here to see all 40 short plays

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Film Maker, Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Best Seller

 

Jackpot!! My Children’s Play Produced in Ontario, Canada

Euphoria!!  My full length children’s play, The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf is being produced in Ontario, Canada! 

In this stand alone sequel to “Emma and the Lost Unicorn”, Emma is held captive in Patsy, the Banana Spider’s web.  No one can see her except the irrepressible elf, Cheets.  Everyone in the forest has been searching for Emma to no avail and given his reputation, no one believes Cheets when he claims to have found her. Cheets can see Emma but not hear her through Patsy’s web.  Emma must “act out” vital news concerning the enchanted forest.   Hazard, the Lord of the Underworld is selling the forest to developers.  Emma must not stand in his way!    This fable tells of greed, ecology, friendship, enduring love and justice. 

Most of the characters from “Emma and the Lost Unicorn” [Published by Samuel French] return to this new fable.  New characters include: Thomas, the sea turtle, pedantic but loveable.  Laughter erupts when the audience realizes that he speaks only in nautical expressions and sayings.  Patsy, the spider represents greed.  Rose, Emma’s mother emphasizes maternal devotion and the ability to believe when the magical creatures of the forest reveal themselves to her.  Hazard, Lord of the Underworld reunites with a lost love.  Roles for every child who auditions! fairy tales, children's plays, scripts for kids,riddles for children,unicorns

Returning characters:        
Emma, the earthling girl
                                                Cheets, the elf
                                               Stare, the rhetorical owl
                                                Donald, Emma’s faerie best friend
                                               Cleo, Queen of the Faeries
                                               Handmaidens of the Queen
                                               Assorted faeries and woodland creatures

New characters:                  Patsy, the spider
                                    Hazard, Lord of the underworld
                                    Thomas, the sea faring turtle
 Rose, Emma’s mother

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To Purchase