10 Contemporary Plays for Teen Actors

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Photo Source: “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” Credit: Joan Marcus

Finding audition and practice material for teens can be challenging—especially if you’re looking for something more contemporary. That said, there are works out there that lend themselves to teenage actors. Here are 10 great plays for teens and young adults, from coming-of-age stories to historical dramas.


Contemporary plays for teens

“Actually” by Anna Ziegler

“Actually” Credit: Chris Whitaker

A great play for teens should have storylines and characters that are age-appropriate and easy for teens to understand. It should also offer material that can easily be cut into attention-grabbing monologues.

1. “Actually” by Anna Ziegler (2017)

This two-character play is a he-said, she-said story about date rape, addressing gender and racial politics on a college campus. The play is filled with poignant and insightful speeches for teens.

2. “All-American” by Julia Brownell (2012)

This play tells the story of a high school quarterback and the pressures she and her family face as they consider her future commitment to the sport. The writer’s credits include the popular TV series “Hung,” “Parenthood,” and “This Is Us.”

3. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon (2012)

Christopher, a teenager with autism, takes it upon himself to solve the killing of his neighbor’s dog in this moving play. Along the way, he uncovers family secrets, creates important connections, and forges a new life path for himself. Teens will likely connect with the play’s themes of loneliness and self-discovery.

4. “Dear Evan Hansen” by Steven Levenson (2015) 

With its depiction of social anxiety, depression, and bullying, “Dear Evan Hansen” will surely strike a chord with teenagers. Following a classmate’s death, protagonist Evan finds himself mistakenly wrapped up in another family’s grief. Along with some highly catchy musical numbers, the play provides excellent fodder for teens to explore deeper emotions.

5. “Girl” by Megan Mostyn-Brown (2008)

This is a terrific play about what it means to be a girl today. The language is lovely, both honest and relatable. This play is unique because it is told entirely in the form of monologues that are both comedic and dramatic at the same time.

6. “Indian Summer” by Gregory S. Moss (2016)

A sweet teenage romance, this comedy-drama centers around two young men and one young woman dealing with sexual desire and class loyalty. For students unaccustomed to reading plays, the playwright’s style incorporates irregular punctuation and spelling to indicate intentional inflection and rhythm and the use of full capitals to emphasize words. The double slash lines indicate characters interrupting each other, reminding us of real people in everyday conversation. These textual notes provide a valuable lesson for actors as they think of text as an improvisation with words.

7. “Really Really” by Paul Downs Colaizzo (2013)

This is a smart, humorous play about a group of four college students the night after a wild campus party. The themes of social class, entitlement, and peer pressure will surely resonate. Teens can use the play’s many sophisticated monologues to practice for auditions. 

8. “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh (2017)

For those who missed the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run, this play is a must-read. Set in an all-girls boarding school in Ghana, the play is a coming-of-age story of backbiting teens and bullying. It’s easy to read and relatable for younger actors, since the plot is constructed like a sitcom and reminiscent of classic teen films such as “Mean Girls” and “Heathers.”

9. “String of Pearls” by Michele Lowe (2005)

This play features four actors who play 27 characters, exploring what happens when they come into contact with a strand of pearls. Over 35 years, the pearls tell a story of love and loss through different relationships. Although many of the characters are older, this play makes a good choice for a high school production given the sheer number of possibilities.

10. “The Tall Girls” by Meg Miroshnik (2014)

This play features a strong ensemble of characters exploring issues of class, gender, and basketball during the historic 1930s Dust Bowl. While contemporary, “The Tall Girls” feels like an old-fashioned play, allowing teen actors to expand their range.

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Denise Simon
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years as an actor, teacher, director, casting director and personal talent manager.
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