"Competition Piece"

A One Act Play by John S. Wells

Who will win the play competition? The Grim Reaper will deliver this news. Ikon Images

Playwright John S. Wells wrote Competition Piece as a play within a play—“a play about the process of preparing a play for competition.” The piece, intended for high school age actors, is a hilarious one-act about three school groups vying to win an annual play festival.

A perfectionist director leads a group of “preppies.” A failed basketball coach “demoted” to theatre director leads a group of “metalheads,” and a flowing artsy director leads the “arties.” The notes in the script encourage directors to let the actors explore giving each role a distinctive personality within the specified stereotype.

Setting: The Stage of a One-Act Play Competition

Time: The Present


Competition Piece has a large ensemble cast with no defined leading role. There are many opportunities for actors to play larger-than-life characters and see a lot of stage time.

Cast size: This play can accommodate 22 actors.

Male Characters: 7

Female Characters: 14

Characters that could be either male or female: 1


The Preppies: Missy, Will, Hunter, Jill, and Dawn

These students are ambitious and willing to put the work in to win the festival. But they are still teenagers and who complain and gossip as they work.

The Metalheads: Sue, Ike, Tom, Jessica, and Travis

Since their director has no theatrical experience whatsoever and does not really want any, this group must take charge of their own play. These students are considered “rejects” in the school that they attend, but they have more dedication to the spirit of their craft than the other two groups do.

The Arties: Laura, Allison, Elliot, Callie and Graham

This group is adventurous and willing to try anything. Although their rehearsal methods and choice of play are unconventional, they are still in it to win it. It is important to note that they are not blindly following their director—they often question her methods much like real casts of teenagers often do.

Sarah is the narrator who guides the audience through the sections of the play. She has definite views on the competition as a whole. She is not part of any of the above competing groups and likely attends a different school entirely.

The Directors

Miss Hockenschmoss is a perfectionist director. She believes that her actors must follow her every direction exactly as she gives it out and exactly as she herself would move or speak. Any deviation from her plan makes her flustered and upset.

Mrs. Mellencamp is an artist. She sees this play festival as an opportunity to influence her students to experience complete devotion to the craft of theatre. Although she appears free-thinking and artsy in nature, she is actually fiercely competitive.

Ms. Grubowski is the athletic coach whose team lost 71 basketball games in a row causing her to be “transferred” to directing the school play. She is there in this competition for one reason only—to impress the principal enough to get her coaching job back.

The Judges

Miss Matilda Meeks is the first judge. “Censorship” is her favorite word. In her mind, teenagers are still innocent young children who must be protected from every unsavory aspect of life.

Dr. Albert Siskell-Ebert is the second judge.

For him, although art must not be bound by any laws of content, that content must be executed perfectly. He is an expert on theatre. Nothing but the best will impress him.

The Grim Reaper is the third judge. The Grim Reaper has no lines but remains a presence throughout the play and eventually delivers the judgments.

Content Issues: The play is highly comedic and requires extremely exaggerated (beyond unrealistic) performances, but it does contain mild bad language, kissing scenes, references to drugs, and references to teenage pregnancy.

To view videos of a high school production, begin here. (Note—Slide ahead to 3:40 to see the start of the play.)