Theatre for Youth Plays
by Jack Stokes
During his long life Jack Stokes was a prolific playwright, teacher and educator. He created more than 25 Youth Theatre Plays. Most of those are currently licensed by Summerwind Productions. Reading scripts for all of the plays listed below are available upon request
Jack Stokes Plays Available to License
Youth Theatre Play Titles
The Day the Plottypo Danced – The Plottypo enters a house, hides in a closet, and won’t go away till the inhabitants can guess its name. Until that happens, nothing goes right in the house. The heroine, Siobhan Deederjohn, and her Uncle Bravo climb a secret staircase that leads to the other side of the moon in order to find the secret name of the creature. Their adventures, involving various creatures, are no fun at all—except to the audience.
Honkybird – Suddenly one day, on the very day that the Queen is to dedicate it, a town’s Statue of Good Will disappears and is replaced by the terrible Honkybird, whose only aim is to spread destruction and ill will in the town. A young man and his girl friend venture into Yesterday in order to change the events that have led to the coming of the Honkybird.
Poison Damsel – Based on the African legend of the poison damsel: In this particular story a poison damsel, created specifically by the evil Ilch to exact revenge on a town that has expelled him, arrives in town and attempts to infect the town with her poison. It falls upon a boy of the town to defeat the Poison Damsel and, of course, her master Ilch and to save the town from destruction. In the course of the play, however, we begin to sympathize with the plight of the poison damsel herself, who is but a tool used for an evil person’s purpose.
Jaybo and the Iffleprinkle – Whoever possesses the iffleprinkle possesses the power to turn loving parents into mean parents. Jaybo is unfortunate enough to find himself the object of parents who have been inoculated by the iffleprinkle and who therefore have become abusive enough to take him to the woods and leave him there at the mercy of the Old Things, creatures who hate boys. Only with the help of a little girl who has met the same fate (the Old Things hate girls too) is he able to save his parents from the shackles of meanness (the worst kind of shackles).
Plays for Older Audiences
A Ceremony of Masks: A Love Story – “The play is based on the myth of Medea; and one of the chief sources is the play by Euripides. However, as anyone familiar with Euripides will note, the author of this play has taken liberties. For example, he has started the action not ín medias res (in the middle of things), as the Greek playwrights were wont to do, but at the beginning of Medea’s relationship with Jason when Medea was a silly teenager.”
Last Year’s Happy Victim at Sky’s Edge – The mountain town Sky’s Edge has a festival each year celebrating the Shadder, a cloudlike creature that arises at cliff’s edge every year and requires some young man in the town to “go up against it,” western style. Of course, the young man is always a sacrifice, either by being swallowed up by the creature or, in the view of the chief agnostic in town, by falling down the cliff. This opponent of the Shadder Festival wages a less than successful war against the practice—until suddenly “last year’s happy victim” shows up alive. And that changes everything.
Though these were written to as Readers Theatre productions, most can be produced as straight plays. All make use of verse and rhythmic chant and a speaking, chanting chorus. Much opportunity for dance-like movement.
The Last Days of Good Old Bill – A “western,” in which the town’s gunman, of whom the town is very proud, is bested by a tenderfoot marshal from the East. Lots of rhythmic speech and opportunities for rhythmic movement.
Hippity Whump – The Easter rabbit becomes grumpy because nobody can see him. For him, being believed in is not enough; he wants to be seen. His attempts to be seen as well as believed in make up the story of this piece. But in his efforts to be seen he messes up his hopper, so that his hippity-hop becomes a hippity-whump. Much rhythmic speech.
The Ballad of Red Dog – The story in rhyme of the downfall of one of the deadliest pirates in existence, betrayed by his love for a woman who urges him to go straight. A terribly “sad” (though also comic) story.
Mama Medea – Based on the Greek legend. This piece, written in jazzlike verse, tells the story of Medea, Jason, and Creon. A production of this piece won first place in 1974 at a national junior college speech meet and was the inspiration for the movie Mama Medea, adapted and directed by Dennis Vaughn.
Stackalee – Recounts the story of the underground figure in St. Louis at the turn of the century. In his wild criminal career he suddenly kills the innocent, beloved Billy Lyons. Then he is faced with the prospect of being taken by Scratch (whom some of us know as the devil).
Tailypo – Based on a southern folk tale. An old man is pestered by a creature that creeps into his cabin. The old man slices off the creature’s tail, cooks it, and eats it. The tale tells of the creature’s attempt to “get his tailypo back.”
Better Not Sit on the Grampire’s Knee – Did you know that sometimes, instead of Santa Claus, the Grampire comes to little kids and, when they tell him what they want for Christmas, makes sure they get it, but not without a terrible price? This is the story of one little boy with a greedy sister who sat on the Grampire’s knee, and how he saves her from the clutches of the evil Grampire.
The Rime of the Gingerbread Man – A treatment in verse of the fairy tale. This has been performed by kindergarten children, who do not yet know how to read. The children can be helped to memorize their lines by rote.
The Rime of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – A treatment of the famous fairytale. It tells the story of a self-centered, sassy Goldilocks, whose common response to criticism is to stick out her tongue. She invades the bears’ house, violates their privacy, eats their porridge, sits in their chairs and breaks them, sleeps in their beds; but when the bears return, she still escapes. We hope that the experience has made her a better person; but it appears that this is unlikely.
Jack Stokes (1923 – 2018)
Jack Stokes is a retired professor of speech and theatre from Southwestern Illinois College. He has degrees from three colleges – BA (English and Social Studies), Indiana State; MA (English), University of Illinois; and Ph.D. (Speech and Theatre), Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. At Indiana State he was awarded the William C. Ball English Prize in 1950, and at SIU-C, a fellowship in 1968.
He has taught in high school at Basin, Wyoming; in high school at Oblong, Illinois; and in high school and junior college at Belleville, Illinois.
He is a three-year veteran of World War II and a member of the VFW, having spent two and one-half years overseas during the war. One good thing that came out of this experience (besides the satisfaction of having helped save the world) was being stationed in Salzburg at the time of the rebirth of the Salzburg Festival at the end of the war. As he writes this, he is listening to a symphony by Sir Edward Elgar only one of the many composers whose work he enjoys.
He is the author of many plays and readers theatre pieces, among them Wiley and the Hairy Man, published by Dramatic Publishing Company and anthologized in the collection Plays Children Love; The Incredible Jungle Journey of Fenda Maria, anthologized in two collections – Contemporary Children’s Theatre and Eight Plays for Youth; and Mama Medea, a one-act play which won first place honors at a national junior college contest in 1974 and is the basis of a movie Mama Medea, produced and directed by Dennis Vaughan.
He is the director of the RSVP Readers Theatre in the county in which he resides. He enjoys directing and acting in local community and college theatrical productions (In November, 2005, he portrayed Mr. DePinna in You Can’t Take It With You. In an earlier production of the same play at McKendree College, he played Grandpa).
In 2001, the Illinois Theatre Association presented him with the Children’s Theatre Award.
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