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Aaron’s RT Classic!

Stories on Stage

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

With 15 Scripts From 15 Authors, Including Louis Sachar, Nancy Farmer, Russell Hoban, Wanda Gag, and Roald Dahl


Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

Stories on Stage is a collection of reader’s theater scripts for young readers, adapted from stories by fifteen different authors, including such favorites as Roald Dahl, Nancy Farmer, and Louis Sachar. Coming from such genres as humor, fantasy, and multicultural folktales, the stories have been selected for their dramatic quality, literary value, and appeal to young people.

The scripts may be freely copied, shared, and performed for noncommercial purposes. With a focus on ages 8 to 15, the collection features a wide 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.

Roald Dahl • Nancy Farmer • Wanda Gag • Louis Sachar
Florence Parry Heide • Carol Farley • Harold Courlander
Russell Hoban • Monica Shannon • Eleanor Farjeon
Stephen Manes • Caryn Yacowitz • Steve Sanfield
Christie Harris • Aaron Shepard

Shepard Publications
Paperback ~ 2005
Ebook ~ 2014

The following links may earn commissions for this site.

This info is for the Second Edition. You can also read about the First Edition.

Reviews and Comments

“Gives teachers a fun and useful tool for bringing reading and literature to their students.”—Betty S. Evans, School Library Journal, Feb. 2006

“Reader’s theater gets a boost from this collection. . . . The scripts are simple and direct, multicultural, and easily reproducible for classroom use.”—Ilene Cooper, Booklist (American Library Association), Jan. 1, 1994

“An intriguing, well-rounded collection. . . . The tone and content of source material is effectively preserved.”—The Horn Book Guide, July‑Dec. 1993

“A well-written collection. . . . These scripts will inspire young actors to read the books.”—Penny Peck, Bayviews (Association of Children’s Librarians), Nov. 1993

“Give kids a script and watch them act. . . . Shepard’s talent as a storyteller shines out in his adaptations.”—Jan Lieberman, TNT: Tips & Titles of Books, Fall 1993

“What? Don’t have time to write up your own scripts for reader’s theater? Not to worry. Aaron Shepard will get you started with his stellar scripts—perfect for duplicating, handing out to your students, and bringing to life. This is one must-have book.”—Judy Freeman, Author, More Books Kids Will Sit Still For

“One of the challenges of teaching is instilling in our students a love for reading. By transforming imaginative stories by some of our favorite authors into clever scripts, Aaron Shepard once again provides the means for teachers to nurture a passion for the written word. This second edition of Stories On Stage is a most worthwhile addition to your cache of reading strategies that work.”—Susan Finney, Author, Keep the Rest of the Class Reading and Writing While You Teach Small Groups


Getting Started

About This Book

About the Scripts

About Staging

About the Web Site

Millions of Cats

By Wanda Gag

An old man has trouble making a choice when he finds a hill quite covered with cats.

GENRE: Fantasy
THEME: Moderation; pride vs. humility
READERS: 9 or more
LENGTH: 6 minutes


By Florence Parry Heide
From Tales for the Perfect Child

Harriet was a very good whiner.

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: American
THEME: Whining
LENGTH: 3 minutes

The Legend of Lightning Larry

By Aaron Shepard

A cowboy with a huge smile, a gun that shoots bolts of light, and a hankering for lemonade takes on Evil‑Eye McNeevil’s outlaw gang.

GENRE: Fables (original), tall tales, humor
CULTURE: American (Western frontier)
THEME: Peacemaking
READERS: 22 or more
LENGTH: 8 minutes

Mr. Bim’s Bamboo

By Carol Farley

Mr. Bim’s shop faces hard times when his customers turn to new things.

GENRE: Fantasy
CULTURE: East Asian (general)
THEME: Tradition vs. modernity
LENGTH: 6 minutes

Three Sideways Stories From Wayside School

By Louis Sachar
From Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Some say the teachers and students at Wayside School are strange and silly—and so will you!

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: American
THEME: Non-horizontal thinking
LENGTH: 12 minutes (1/2 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 1/2)

The Jade Stone

By Caryn Yacowitz

A stone carver must choose between obeying his emperor and obeying the stone he is given to carve.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Chinese (ancient)
THEME: Artistic process; artistic integrity
READERS: 11 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes


By Harold Courlander and George Herzog
From The Cow-Tail Switch, and Other West African Stories

A farmer’s day goes awry when he gets lip from a yam.

GENRE: Tall tales, folktales
CULTURE: African (western), Ashanti
THEME: Predictability
READERS: 15 or more
LENGTH: 4 minutes

The Bean Boy

By Monica Shannon
From California Fairy Tales

A farm boy with wayward shoelaces offers to find the dream of the Governor’s daughter.

GENRE: Fantasy
CULTURE: Californian (Spanish colonial), Irish-American
THEME: Determination; helpfulness
LENGTH: 8 minutes

How Tom Beat Captain Najork

By Russell Hoban

Tom won’t stop fooling around, so his aunt sends for Captain Najork to teach that boy a lesson.

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: British
THEME: Value of play
LENGTH: 10 minutes

Tapiwa’s Uncle

By Nancy Farmer

When Uncle Zeka arrives in the city from his village, his attempts to be helpful don’t always work out.

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: African (southeastern)
THEME: Cultural diversity
READERS: 7 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes

The Kid from the Commercial

By Stephen Manes
From It’s New! It’s Improved! It’s Terrible!

Through Arnold’s broken TV screen comes a boy from a very different world.

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: American
THEME: Commercialism; media manipulation
LENGTH: 5 minutes

The Fools of Chelm

By Steve Sanfield
From The Feather Merchants

Where but in the town of Chelm could you find thinking that is so . . . creative?

GENRE: Folktales, noodlehead stories
CULTURE: Jewish (eastern European)
THEME: Logical pitfalls
READERS: 8 or 9
LENGTH: 10 minutes

Mr. Twit’s Revenge

By Roald Dahl
From The Twits

To get back at Mrs. Twit, Mr. Twit plays his nastiest trick ever.

GENRE: Humor
CULTURE: British
THEME: Revenge
LENGTH: 8 minutes

Mouse Woman and the Snails

By Christie Harris
From Mouse Woman and the Vanished Princesses

When Super-Snails enslave a princess, Mouse Woman has to help set things right.

GENRE: Myths, folktales
CULTURE: Native American (Pacific Northwest coast, U.S. and Canada)
THEME: Kindness to animals; pride vs. humility
READERS: 12 or more
LENGTH: 16 minutes


By Eleanor Farjeon
From The Little Bookroom

Young King John might have better luck finding a queen if he could only remember his poem.

GENRE: Fantasy
THEME: Duty vs. dreams
READERS: 8 or more
READER AGES: 11 and up
LENGTH: 18 minutes

Sample Text

Getting Started

Stories on Stage is a collection of reader’s theater scripts for young readers, adapted from stories by fifteen different authors, including such popular ones as Louis Sachar, Nancy Farmer, and Roald Dahl. Each story was selected for its dramatic quality, literary value, and appeal to young people. Genres include fantasy, multicultural folktales, and humor.

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 wide range of reading levels is included, with a focus on 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 that is 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 instead 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.

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!

This info is for the Second Edition. You can also read about the First Edition.

| About Aaron’s RT Books | | Aaron’s RT Page | | Aaron’s Home Page |
| Search | | New | | Flash! | | Rights | | Contact | | Subscribe |