Plays on IdeasPlays On Ideas:
Short Royalty-Free Plays from the History of Thought for Performance in Theaters, Classrooms, Living Rooms, or the Privacy of Your Own Brain

Five 10-minute plays in which a fascinating bunch of characters discuss the kinds of ideas that people live and die for. The overall cast includes William Jennings Bryan, Queen Christina, Clarence Darrow, René Descartes, Queen Elizabeth I, Joan of Arc, Sequoyah, and William Shakespeare. Cast sizes range from two to four.

Since plays shouldn't end when the curtain comes down, each episode finishes with a question mark, a dissonant chord—an unresolved something-or-other that invites further thought.

  • The Maiden and the Nation: Joan of Arc at Orleans
  • God's Substitute:
    Elizabeth and Shakespeare after the Essex Rebellion
  • The Gateway of the Soul:
    Christina's Last Lesson with Descartes
  • Talking Leaves: Sequoyah and the Conjurors
  • In the Belly of the Fish:
    Bryan and Darrow After the Scopes Trial

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Joan of Arc, 10 minute play, Wim Coleman

  The Maiden and the Nation: Joan of Arc at Orléans
Does a higher power take sides in human conflict, including war? How can a religion of peace foster a warrior saint? What is the distinction between divine revelation and madness? This playlet, taking place after Joan of Arc's victory over the British at Orléans in 1429, puts these questions in sharp focus. While comforting a dying English soldier, Joan finds herself at odds with her own mystical voices when the the spirit of England's St. George speaks through the soldier's lips.
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The Maiden and the Nation in a reproducible PDF file: $5.00

  God's Substitute: Elizabeth and Shakespeare After the Essex Rebellion
The divine right of monarchs is a long-discredited notion. But has democracy supplied a viable alternative? This question comes to a head in "God's Substitute," set in 1601 after William Shakespeare's acting company stages a production of Richard II at the request of the rebellious Earl of Essex. In this fictional episode, Shakespeare is brought before Queen Elizabeth I and faces possible execution for the performance of his play. To save his life, Shakespeare engages the Virgin Queen in a stimulating conversation about Machiavelli, the crafts of playwrights and princes, and the duties of the creative artist. See video.
Download God's Substitute in a reproducible PDF file: $5.00

The Gateway of the Soul, a Play by Wim Coleman
 

The Gateway of the Soul: Christina's Last Lesson with Descartes
Is there a soul? The great French philosopher René Descartes thought so — or at least he claimed to. To him, the soul was a non-material essence that existed apart from the material body. Famously, he died soon after his last session tutoring the impetuous Swedish Queen Christina in 1650. During that conversation, might the fiercely intelligent Christina have gotten the better of the fatally ill philosopher, anticipating developments in today's science and philosophy? "The Gateway of the Soul" is Wim's playful rendition of an ill-fated conversation that surely never took place.
Download The Gateway of the Soul in a reproducible PDF file: $5.00

Talking Leaves, a play by Wim Coleman
  Talking Leaves: Sequoyah and the Conjurors
What is the power of the written word, as opposed to oral tradition? What compromises must an oppressed culture make to preserve its identity? No Cherokee was ever more militant than the brilliant Sequoyah, who devised a syllabary for writing his native language during the early 1800s. But was his innovation a wicked emulation of the White Man's ways? In this play, based on real events, Sequoyah defends his syllabary—and his life—against accusations of witchcraft by Cherokee conjurors.
Download Talking Leaves in a reproducible PDF file: $5.00

In the Belly of the Fish, a play by Wim Coleman
  In the Belly of the Fish: Bryan and Darrow After the Scopes Trial
What is the conflict between science and religion? How might it be resolved? Can it be resolved? One of the most famous historical debates on these questions took place at the Scopes trial of 1925, in which the star participants were the fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan and the agnostic lawyer Clarence Darrow. The 1955 play Inherit the Wind, often taught in schools as a more-or-less accurate account of the trial, is extravagantly fictionalized and distorted. Wim has written a fictional post-trial dialogue between Darrow and Bryan, representing the viewpoints of these two decent men in startling new ways.
Download In the Belly of the Fish in a reproducible PDF file: $5.00

Nine MusesMORE ONE-ACTS:

Nine Muses: Modern Plays from Classic Myths

Stages of History: Plays About America's Past

Plays on Ideas, Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin home page
More for young readers? Go to ChironBooks home page

Plays on Ideas: short, royalty-free plays for reading and performance; suitable for readers theater, school, workshops, communty performance, and as literature.