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Aaron’s Scripts in Paperback and Ebook!

Folktales on Stage

Children’s Plays for Reader’s Theater (or Readers Theatre)

With 16 Scripts from World Folk and Fairy Tales and Legends, Including Asian, African, and Native American

Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

Folktales on Stage is a collection of reader’s theater scripts for young readers, adapted by children’s author Aaron Shepard from his own folktale retellings. A wide variety of countries and cultures is represented, including Native America, Africa, the Middle East, India, Russia, Scandinavia, Southeast Asia, and China. The scripts may be freely copied, shared, and performed for any noncommercial purpose, except the texts may not be posted publicly without permission. While aiming mostly at ages 8 to 15, the collection features a full range of reading levels.

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of numerous children’s books and magazine stories, as well as three books on reader’s theater, Stories on Stage, Folktales on Stage, and Readers on Stage. He spent five years as a professional actor in reader’s theater, performing in schools and conducting workshops for teachers, librarians, and students. He now hosts Aaron Shepard’s RT Page, the Web’s most popular reader’s theater destination, with visits from thousands of teachers and librarians each week.

Shepard Publications
Paperback ~ 2004
Ebook ~ 2014

The following links may earn commissions for this site.

Reviews and Comments

“Aaron Shepard is a national treasure. He has given thousands of us busy teachers and librarians a gold mine of ready‑made plays our students clamor to perform over and over. Aaron’s new collection never fails to delight and enthrall. While the experts argue about the “right” way to teach reading, Aaron is in the middle of the action, inspiring our kids to read aloud with fluency, comprehension, expression, and best of all, joy.”—Judy Freeman, author, More Books Kids Will Sit Still For

“Aaron Shepard has done it! Folktales on Stage is a complete package of easy-to-perform, dynamic reader’s theater scripts. Pack your passport and take a trip around the world. You and your actors will have a world of fun.”—Dr. Caroline Feller Bauer, author, Presenting Reader’s Theater and New Handbook for Storytellers

“What a gift for the classroom teacher! Pure reading pleasure and not a single script that can’t be used with small groups or an entire class. Performance reading builds fluency, but Aaron Shepard’s gift for storytelling will also build appreciation. This collection will be a rich addition to reading programs in our balanced literacy classrooms.”—Susan Finney, author, Independent Reading Activities That Keep Kids Learning While You Teach Small Groups

“Aaron Shepard’s Folktales on Stage brings the joy inherent in folk literature to life. Children will love reading aloud for an audience as they become the witty, foolish, gentle, and often touching characters in these tales.”—Shirlee Sloyer, author, From the Page to the Stage: The Educator’s Complete Guide to Readers Theatre

“What a great resource! These easy-to-use scripts are just the thing for the social studies or language arts curriculum. With thorough directions, even those who have never tried reader’s theater will find it very easy to move the scripts from book to stage. The author is a skilled advocate of reader’s theater and has shared that expertise so that everyone can include this form of dramatic reading in their instructional programs.”—Peggy Sharp, children’s literature consultant

“The work of a master of the craft. Based on authentic folktales, and ranging from side-splittingly funny to magical and enchanting, these dramatic pieces will be enjoyed by young readers, and by audiences of all ages.”—Dr. Judy Sierra, folklorist and author, Multicultural Folktales and Nursery Tales Around the World

“A superb resource for schools, libraries, and youth-friendly community theater organizations.”—The Bookwatch, Nov. 2003

“[Shepard] makes Readers’ Theatre so simple that even the most inexperienced will be able to perform these stories. . . . Just right for school assemblies.”—Penny Peck, BayNews (Association of Children’s Librarians), Feb. 2004

“The quality of the scripting is flawless and faithfully reflects the level of expertise we have come to expect from Aaron Shepard. Anyone interested in learning how to script for RT would do well to study these scripts with the original source stories in hand.”—R. Demers, Readers Theatre Digest, Winter 2004


Getting Started

About This Book

About the Scripts

About Staging

About the Web Site

The Adventures of Mouse Deer: Favorite Folk Tales of Southeast Asia

Mouse Deer is small, and many animals want to eat him—but first they have to catch him!

GENRE: Folktales, trickster tales
CULTURE: Indonesian, Malaysian
THEME: Wits vs. power
READERS: 9 or more
LENGTH: 20 minutes (3 + 7 + 4 + 6 + 1)

The Calabash Kids: A Tale of Tanzania

The prayers of a lonely woman are answered when her gourds change into children.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: African, Tanzanian
THEME: Name-calling
READERS: 16 or more
LENGTH: 8 minutes

The Hidden One: A Native American Legend

The invisible hunter at the end of the village is sought as husband by every village maiden—but will Little Scarface even dare to try?

GENRE: Folktales, Cinderella tales
CULTURE: Native American, Canadian
THEME: Self-esteem, heroines
READER AGES: 7 and up
LENGTH: 8 minutes

The Boy Who Wanted the Willies

Hans has never in his life been frightened—but a night in a haunted castle should finally give him his chance.

GENRE: Folktales, tall tales, ghost stories
CULTURE: German, European
THEME: Fearlessness
READERS: 19 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland

When a young man seeks a wife by way of family tradition, he finds himself engaged to a mouse.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Finnish
THEME: Kindness, humility, integrity
READERS: 8 or more
LENGTH: 12 minutes

The Legend of Slappy Hooper: An American Tall Tale

Slappy is the world’s biggest, fastest, bestest sign painter, but he’s too good—his pictures keep coming to life.

GENRE: Tall tales, folktales
CULTURE: American
THEME: Pursuit of excellence
READERS: 8 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Gifts of the Grasscutter: A Tale of India and Pakistan

Wali Dad, a humble grasscutter, never asked for wealth—so why can’t he give it away?

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Asian Indian, Pakistani
THEME: Generosity
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale

Van Amsterdam, the baker, is as honest as he can be—but he may have something left to learn.

GENRE: Legends, St. Nicholas tales
CULTURE: American (Dutch colonial)
THEME: Generosity
READERS: 6 or more
LENGTH: 6 minutes

Master Maid: A Tale of Norway

When Leif goes to work for the troll, only the advice of a remarkable young woman can save him from his foolishness—if only he’ll listen!

GENRE: Folktales, tall tales
CULTURE: Norwegian
THEME: Stubbornness, heroines
READERS: 9 or more
LENGTH: 12 minutes

The Magic Brocade: A Tale of China

To save his mother’s life, a young man must retrieve her weaving from the fairies of Sun Palace.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Chinese
THEME: Following dreams; creative process
READERS: 9 or more
LENGTH: 12 minutes

Forty Fortunes: A Tale of Iran

When a young man’s wife makes him pose as a fortuneteller, his success is unpredictable.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Iranian (Persian), Middle Eastern
THEME: Pretension
READERS: 11 or more
READER AGES: 8 and up
LENGTH: 10 minutes

Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria

Shadusa thinks he’s the strongest man in the world—till he meets the real Master Man.

GENRE: Tall tales, folktales
CULTURE: West African, Nigerian
THEME: Machismo
READERS: 12 or more
READER AGES: 8 and up
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Princess and the God: A Tale of Ancient India

The princess Savitri must use all her wit and will to save her husband from the god of death.

GENRE: Myths, folktales, legends
CULTURE: Asian Indian (ancient), Hindu
THEME: Heroines, determination
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Enchanted Storks: A Tale of Bagdad

The Calif and his Vizier try a spell that changes them into storks, then find they can’t change back.

GENRE: Fairy tales, folktales
CULTURE: Iraqi, Middle Eastern
THEME: Recklessness
READERS: 13 or more
LENGTH: 14 minutes

The Crystal Heart: A Vietnamese Legend

The mandarin’s daughter did not really see the boatman who sang from the river, but she’s sure he’s her destined love.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Vietnamese
THEME: Kindness, false imagining
READER AGES: 10 and up
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend

A poor musician is invited to play in the Sea King’s palace, where he’s offered more than riches.

GENRE: Legends, folktales, epic ballads
CULTURE: Russian (medieval)
THEME: Making choices; value of arts
READERS: 9 or more
READER AGES: 10 and up
LENGTH: 10 minutes

Sample Text

Getting Started

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.

About Staging

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!

| About Aaron’s RT Books | | Aaron’s RT Page | | Aaron’s Home Page |
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