THE PENNY DREADFULS
Type: Full Length
Genres: Comedy, Classics
Themes: Survival, Homeless, Classic Adaptations
Duration: 90 minutes
Speaking Cast: 16 females, 13 males (29 total cast)
SYNOPSIS: The Penny Dreadfuls are orphans and runaways who spend their nights and days working for the dastardly Professor as pickpockets and thieves. They’ve got far more than mischief up their sleeves! Their stolen goods always ends up at a pawn shop run by the despicable Bethesda Nightsoil and Dorthea Sprockett. The Professor’s partnership with these ladies has been very profitable until Mad Aggie, a former Penny Dreadful now disguised as the town lunatic, vows revenge on the Professor for sending him to jail for ten long years. And revenge was never sweeter! First, the Professor gets a bottle of potion he believes will cure his baldness. It does. There’s hair everywhere and there’s no stopping it. Then Scuttlebutt, the leader of the Penny Dreadfuls, gets himself arrested. The others are certain the Professor will do whatever it takes to get Scuttlebutt out of jail, but Mad Aggie knows better: “I know a Penny Dreadful he left in a cell. He’s done it before. He did it to me! To save his own neck, any song he’d gladly sing. And he’ll lose no sleep if from the gallows you swing!” Meanwhile, the Professor’s bizarre family, who thinks he’s a respectable businessman, comes for an unwelcome visit. To hide his hairy condition, the Professor mysteriously disappears. His family becomes suspicious and so does his girlfriend, the vamp Lolita Foxglove. They all suspect Bethesda and Dorthea of doing him in. “They’ve murdered him and buried him under the floor! I smell maggots!” exclaims Eunice, the Professor’s slightly deranged niece. When the Professor finally does make an appearance, his desperate cruelty shocks even Dorethea and Bethesda. This is a fast-paced, darkly comic play reminiscent of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” As in Dickens’ novel, all villains get their due. This makes a great non-musical alternative to “Oliver!”
AP Giannini Middle School
San Francisco, CA
Lincoln Elementary School District #27
Live Theatre Workshop
Birchmount Middle School Drama
Moncton, NB, Canada
EAST DUBUQUE SCHOOL DIST
EAST DUBUQUE, IL
Santa Susana High School
Simi Valley, DE
When I first came across the term "penny dreadfuls" which refers to cheap tabloids full of murders and other scandalous acts, I thought it would be a great name for a Dickensian character. I had just finished rereading "Oliver Twist" and wanted to write a new play in the same vein (though not a reworking of the same plot). So Fagin's gang became The Penny Dreadfuls, boys (or girls) who work dirt cheap as pickpockets and thieves, bringing their loot to the Professor and two tough ladies who run a shady pawn shop. Over the past decade, I've created well over 200 characters, but none as evil as The Professor and few I care about as much as The Penny Dreadfuls. Mad Aggie is in a class all his (or her) own. A very atmospheric play full of dark humor.
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