Folktales on Stage is a collection of reader’s theater scripts for young readers, adapted from my own folktale retellings. Most of the adapted stories are ones I first published as picture books or in magazines like Cricket or Australia’s School Magazine. Most of the scripts themselves were first posted on my Web site in the area called Aaron Shepard’s RT Page—now the Web’s most popular reader’s theater destination, with visits by thousands of teachers and librarians each week.
The scripts may be freely copied, shared, and performed for any noncommercial purpose, except they may not be posted online without permission. Feel free to edit the scripts to serve the needs of your own readers.
A full range of reading levels is included, with the collection aimed mostly at ages 8 to 15. Recommended reading age more or less progresses through the book, from younger to older.
A primary aim of reader’s theater is to promote reading. To further this, it’s good to have on hand one or more copies of the book or magazine story that the script is based on.
Above all, have fun with the scripts. Let your readers discover that reading is a treat.
About the Scripts
In the “long” table of contents, and at the beginning of each script, you’ll find notation on genre, culture of origin or setting, theme, number of readers, suggested reader ages, and approximate reading time, as well as a brief description of the story.
Also at the beginning of each script is a list of roles. A reader, of course, can be assigned more than one role, as long as only one role is “onstage” at a time. When a script is short on female characters, it’s common to cast females in male roles.
Roles listed in parentheses are unscripted, with no assigned speech, and usually optional. These roles can be given to surplus readers if your directing style includes stage movement or if you choose to add speeches or sounds for these readers. In the reader count, unscripted roles are indicated by the phrase “or more.”
These scripts are designed to be photocopied for direct use by readers. (That’s why all the page numbers in the scripts are at top right!) For performing, some kind of binder will be helpful.
Of course, an actual stage is not required for reader’s theater. Stage here refers simply to your performance area, which could be the front of a classroom, or an open space in a one-room library, or one end of a school gym or cafeteria. (Or a script could be used as a group reading exercise, with no performance area at all.)
It’s best that you first read the script—or its source story—to the young people. Some scripts may be challenging, and effective modeling will lead to greater benefit and enjoyment.
The readers can underline or highlight their own parts in their copies of the script, marking only words to be spoken. (Yellow non-fluorescent marker works well.) Any unfamiliar words should be looked up and checked for pronunciation and meaning. Added stage directions can go in the script margins—preferably in pencil, to allow corrections.
Your readers might also prepare an introduction to the story, for use in performance. While an introduction should always mention the title and the author, it could also discuss source, author background, cultural background, theme, or context within a longer work. But it shouldn’t give away the plot! Notes at the beginning of some scripts will provide starting points. Introductions are most effective when spoken informally, rather than read or memorized exactly.
With many of the scripts, you can produce a lively stereo effect by dividing your narrators between the two ends of your stage. For instance, with four narrators, place Narrators 1 and 2 at far left, and 3 and 4 at far right, as seen from the audience. To preserve this effect with fewer readers, assign the roles of Narrators 1 and 2 to one reader, and 3 and 4 to another.
In some scripts, particular narrators may relate mostly to particular characters. Notes at the start of those scripts will suggest positioning the characters near the corresponding narrators.
There are many styles of reader’s theater. In the most traditional style:
Readers are arranged in a row or a semicircle, standing up or sitting on high stools. Typically, narrators are placed at one or both ends, and major characters in the center.
Scripts can be held in hand or set on music stands.
Readers look straight out toward the audience or at an angle, rather than at each other.
Characters “exit” by turning their backs to the audience. (Narrators don’t normally exit.)
“Scene changes”—jumps in time or place—can be shown by a group “freeze,” followed by some kind of collective shift.
Chamber Readers, the group with which I trained and performed for five years, employs a style quite different, designed to appeal to young audiences. (For more details, see my book Readers on Stage.)
Characters portray the action described in the story. Where possible, the portrayal is literal, with characters moving around the stage much as in a play. Where necessary, it’s suggestive, as with simple mime devices like walking in place.
Though narrators look mostly at the audience, characters look mostly at each other.
Scripts in sturdy binders are held in one hand, leaving the other hand free for acting.
A set of low stools and perhaps one or more high stools serve as versatile stage scenery or props.
“Exits” and “scene changes” are handled much as in traditional reader’s theater.
These scripts should lend themselves to either approach, or to any other you might choose. Feel free to create your own! There are rules in reader’s theater, but luckily there is no one to enforce them.
About the Web Site
For more resources, please visit my Web site at www.aaronshep.com. From there, click on Aaron’s RT Page (www.aaronshep.com/rt) to find many more scripts, plus other help with reader’s theater. Or click on “Aaron’s Extras” (www.aaronshep.com/extras) for links to special features for individual scripts. These features might include printable color posters, audio recordings of names and music in the scripts, story background, and picture book info. For some scripts, you might also see a “chamber” version for smaller groups of readers.
To help you find what you need, the site includes a comprehensive search function, as well as indexes of all my stories and scripts—online and off—by title, genre, age, theme, country or region, historical period, ethnic group, religion, mythology, holiday, and activity.
And while you’re visiting, be sure to sign up for my email bulletin to receive notice of new scripts and collections. There’s always more to come!