"15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play"

A One-Act play by Alan Haehnel

Teenagers rehearsing a play - even if that's not a good idea!. Hill Street Studios

Alah Haehnel is a prolific playwright in the educational theatre arena. Much like in his play The Chronicles of Jane, Book Seven, the entire large cast of 15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play remains on the stage for the duration of the play. This one-act is similar in format to 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview and Check Please: an ensemble cast of strong, extreme characters interacts with the “normal” characters to generate conflict and comedy.

The actors parade out on stage and begin to explain to the audience all the reasons why being in a play is a terrible, horrible, outrageously dangerous thing. The reasons range from long and twisted stories of traumatic childhood theatrical experiences, to how the weather can change from sunny to apocalyptic if a cast breathes too much at once, to the simple explanation that “Plays suck.”

15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play is easy to produce and versatile. In the production notes, the playwright gives permission for character gender and name changes, doubling or tripling of roles, and expanding the cast to accommodate close to 70 cast members.

Scenes may be deleted and the title of the show changed to “13 Reasons…” or “12 Reasons…” accordingly. (There is a sequel to this play, 18 More Reasons Not To Be in a Play, and a full length version titled, 30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play.)

The setting is just a bare stage although production pictures show creative uses of boxes, risers, and colorful backdrops.

Costumes can be basic or ramped up for the comedic effect. For example, one story is about a boy trapped in a papier-mâché costume of a tree that eventually falls over and none of his fellow woodland creature cast mates (with full use of their non papier-mâché encased arms) help him up. Creating a full-blown tree costume as it is described would add a huge visual comedy element.

Overall, however, Alan Haehnel wants the technical elements of any production to be as flexible as the cast and the venue need in order to produce a fun and engaging show.

15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play has many side benefits for a group of young actors. It offers many opportunities for student actors to practice exaggerated emotion, expression, and physical presence. It is an ensemble piece that allows every cast member to be highlighted. The segmented nature of this script – numerous monologues and duet scenes - makes for an easy rehearsal schedule. Since the cast members stay onstage throughout the production, many actors will be familiar with every role and line therefore if one actor is sick, missing, or forgetful, the others will be able to quickly fill in gaps at a moment’s notice. Lastly, the many monologues in 15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play are excellent audition pieces.

Setting: A bare stage

Time: Present

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 7 to 67 actors.

Male Characters: 2 - 62

Female Characters: 5 - 65

Characters that could be played by males or females: 67

Roles

15 characters identified only by numerals 1 through 15

Jake

Misty

Miss Griswold

Sharon

Alan

Emily

Pete

Jane

Stewart

Mandy

Seven characters identified as 1T through 7T

Travis

Rob

Megan

Bill

Weatherman

Geeks 1 through 4

Five characters identified as Old 1 through Old 5

Reed

W 1

W 2

W3

Television Reporter

Cecily

Boy

Mavis

Zach

Chris

Mom

Nora

Censor

Becca

Mom 2

Baby

Director

Norm

Butch

Mindy

Gina

Content Issues: Strong language, but subject to changes with permission

15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play is available to purchase for production through Playscripts, Inc. It is also part of the collection in the book Random Acts of Comedy: 15 One-Act Plays for Student Actors.

To view a high school production of this play, click here.