Heros of Technology, Lost in Ever After and Zeus Needs a Holiday are new plays specially designed for primary and intermediate ākonga from award-winning playwright and teacher Lindsey Brown of Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.
They are part of a series called The LAB School Productions, which are original concepts written with Brown’s signature humour and wit. As well as being educational and entertaining, each play can be adapted to your specific school or kura.
The flexibility of each play is written right into the script. In Lost in Ever After, there are six main roles, with a further 18 named supporting characters. The play is set in a forest, meaning the set can be “as simple or as complex as you like,” notes the script. At minimum, painted trees and shrubs and card-board cut outs can be used to create the scenery.
Additionally, there are ten musical performances, designed with individual class performances in mind. That means the whole school can participate in Brown’s play. Larger schools have two optional musical numbers to include. For smaller schools, musical numbers which can be cut are highlighted by the playwright, noted as having the least interruption to the play and story.
The musical performances also have inbuilt flexibility, with Brown simply giving suggestions for the song and notes on the themes and actions on stage during the numbers.
“Directors/teachers have the freedom to choose their own specific song to fit best with their group/class. It’s also a chance to include top 40 songs, which helps keep it modern and exciting to students,” says Brown.
Brown says that the flexibility of the plays is meant to provide accessibility for the whole school.
“I give the idea and the concept [of the song] but you can fit in with what suits you. In the script, I’ll say that at this moment it’s a song about competing or racing and I’ll suggest a ‘clean’ song, but I don’t know which class is going to do what part.
“If you’ve got a young class, you can choose a song that’s short and easy. But if you’ve got a more advanced class, you can pick a longer song.
“The plays are written to have more accessibility. If you’ve got a smaller school, you can take out whole sections.”
Having taught in schools for over fifteen years, Brown used her experience in the classroom to write the plays in the LAB School Production Series.
Brown herself has been a performer from a young age, and says shes “surrounded by teachers”, with her mum also being a teacher. She says that this gave her an understanding of the stress involved with big school productions.
“It can be quite overwhelming, especially for newer teachers and smaller schools. I wanted to show that a school production doesn’t have to be big and intimidating; you can start small and scale it up.”
With Zeus Needs a Holiday, Brown says that it can be done with “12 chairs and a few cardboard plints.” Schools wanting more from the production can add elements like projected backgrounds. Students can make elements of the set themselves with Grecian inspired artworks.
Another play in the series, Heros of Technology, has both a world version and a New Zealand version. Each lists a series of inventions where ākonga learn about the inventor of a given technology. It was written to align with the New Zealand curriculum, having both elements of history and science learning. Brown says she aimed for these plays for have diverse characters and fun elements. The New Zealand Heros of Technology features the inventor of pavlova, and the world version features the inventor of the trampoline.
Lost in Ever After and Zeus Needs a Holiday were both finalists in the NZ Plays for the Young Competition 2023. Brown is also a listed author with Read NZ and is available for school visits. This can be a meeting to discuss production of the work, or else a visit with students studying the play. According to Playmarket, these visits have seen students “take real ownership of their work… and their enthusiasm and passion is amplified.”
Brown herself says that she’s “open” to whatever support a school may need, whether that’s conversations on the schools’ specific context and a production they’d like to perform, or even directing a production.
Overall, her vision for the LAB School Productions is for teachers and schools to “feel like they can put on a production,” acknowledging that some existing works for schools can demand too much time and resources. Ultimately, Brown wants the “humour and fun” of her plays to come through in production.
In future, Brown envisions more plays with LAB School Productions, and says she wants to improve on her flexible model with time.
Brown’s LAB School Productions, as well as her other work, can be found through her agent Playmarket. The scripts and rights to perform are available through the website. Brown also has several short plays and skits available which are suitable for drama in the classroom.