top of page


Classroom Plays for Social Studies, History, Folklore


   * Written by L.E. McCullough, Ph.D.

   * ISBN: 1-57525-038-1

   * Retail List Price: $14.95 (check online retailers for other prices)


The Plays of America from American Folklore series makes American history come alive!


The Plays of America books offer student and community theatre groups a fresh, entertaining perspective on American folklore and history. These original plays celebrate the full diversity of our American cultural mosaic, with humorous and adventurous dramatizations of folktales from Native American, African-American, Cajun, Hispanic, Irish, Scandinavian, Hawaiian and Asian sources, along with guest appearances by Big-Foot Wallace, Johnny Appleseed, Old Stormalong, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, George Washington, Joe Magarac, John Henry, Annie Christmas, The Yellow Rose of Texas and other legendary and historical figures.


Each play has an introduction with information about its source culture, story genre and historical context, as well as helpful notes for staging, costuming and music.


1. How the People Got Fire. In this Native American tale, clever animals band together to capture fire from Thunder and Lightning and bring it to earth for humans to use.


2. Let's Have a Hoedown! Characters from favorite 19th-century American folk songs and hoedown tunes come alive. Meet the Yellow Rose of Texas, Arkansas Traveler, Old Joe Clark, Simon Slick and his stubborn mule, John Henry, Old Dan Tucker, Oh Susanna and the Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn — then finish up with a lively square dance!

3. The Cobbler's Pipe. In this Dutch-American tale set in 17th-century New York City, the Cobbler Claas and his family are harassed and impoverished by the evil town burgomaster, Heer Hommel. On Christmas Eve, a curious white-bearded stranger comes to the Claas household bringing gifts and helping the humble cobbler turn the tables on his tormentor.


4. Mr. & Mrs. Charlie T. Mule. As anyone in the hills of Kentucky can tell you, if you make a false wish on an Amber Day, it will come true - and how! Watch the most cantankerous couple in the hollow, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Poole, accidentally turn each other into half-mule/half-human creatures; it takes every trick the old mountain fiddler Solomon Shell can muster up to get the mules out of the Pooles.


5. Gluscabi and His Magic Game Bag. Based on two Abenaki and Cherokee tales about Gluscabi, a good-hearted superhero who sometimes makes childish mistakes with his powers but does his best to right things in the end. In order to provide humans with enough food, Gluscabi tricks all the animals in the world into his magic game bag. His Grandmother tells him this is unwise because humans must learn to hunt for themselves and be responsible for maintaining the natural world in its right balance. Gluscabi releases the animals, then must perform other special feats to teach humans how to hunt without destroying the world's resources.


6. The Beggar in the Blanket. A Vietnamese tale in which a wise wife plays a trick on her husband to show him the true value of friendship. The wealthy Mr. Kim is ashamed of his poor but honest brother, De; when Kim comes home one morning after visiting his rich friends, Mrs. Kim points to a blanket and says she accidentally killed a beggar who tried to rob their house. Kim goes to his friends for help in burying the body in the blanket, but each refuses (and then secretly informs on Kim to the Mandarin, hoping to gain a reward). Finally, Kim asks De, who gladly helps him. When the Kims are arrested and charged with the beggar's murder, Mrs. Kim reveals that there was no beggar in the blanket - only sticks and stones. The Mandarin punishes the selfish "friends" and rewards Mrs. Kim for her cleverness in teaching her husband a valuable lesson about loyalty.


7. Patches Solves a Wedding Riddle. A rhyming riddle tale from the folklore of African-Americans living on the Georgia Sea Isles. Young Patches decides he will seek his fortune by going to Atlanta to solve the wedding riddle the Governor's Daughter has posed to her suitors. If he guesses right, he marries the girl; if he guesses wrong, he'll be sent to pull weeds in the swamp — with the alligators.


8. Magnus Fourpenny and the Black Bear Birthday Bash. Old Magnus Fourpenny of Pigeon Roost, Texas would rather play the jaw's harp than go bear hunting. When his wife orders him to bring back a bear for supper or not come back at all, Magnus ventures into Gumstick Pond and stumbles upon a whole passel of black bears - having a birthday party! While he does return with the fixings for supper, it isn’t exactly roast bear. . .


9. The Laziest Girl in the World. In this Irish-American tale from Boston, young Eileen O'Leary must prove her worthiness to marry the Mayor's Son by spinning, weaving and sewing a fine shirt. Trouble is, Eileen is the laziest girl in the world and never learned to do anything but stare in a mirror! While locked alone in her room at night, she is visited by three tiny old women (leprechauns, banshees, clúracáns, pookas perhaps?) who do the work for her, proving that if your own boastfulness can get you into trouble, a good friend can get you out just as quick.


10. Tillie Edelpickel's Sack of Lies. In this Pennsylvania Dutch variation of a medieval German "Till Eulenspiegel" tale, the heroine uses her magic whistle and the magic words of a friendly hexfrau to outwit the British soldiers holding her brother as a spy. A surprise appearance by General George Washington!


11. The Glass Mountain. This Finnish-American version of the classic "Cinderella" tale hails from the copper mining country of northern Michigan and spotlights the adventures of Cinders, a hard-working boy bullied by his two oafish step-brothers. With the help of the magical noita, Maki, and the diamond-shoed Heikki the Horse, Cinders climbs the glass mountain and wins the Boss’ Daughter.


12. The Honest Miller (El Molinero Honesto). Pedro and Antonio, two wealthy dandies of early New Mexico, debate whether it is money or luck that can help a poor man get rich. As an experiment, they give two thousand pesos to a humble miller, and the gift changes the poor miller’s life in ways no one can foresee!


13. Shlemazl Goes to Paradise. A Jewish-American tale describing the hen-pecked Shlemazl and his increasingly ludicrous efforts to find Paradise on Earth. With help of some "magic" shoes and two mischievous maleks (guardian angels), poor Shlemazl finally decides that "if I'd known Paradise was going to be so much like my old village, I wouldn’t have maybe been in such a hurry to get there."


14. The Most Expensive Bonnet in All Indiana. It's Independence Day, 1840, and the biggest flatboat race in all Indiana is about to begin when the tiny Prairie Hen and the mighty Hail Columbia cast off down the Wabash & Erie Canal. Make way for fireworks, bombast and hijinks a-plenty as folks lose their heads over a hat!


15. Return of the Red Phantom. The Gold Rush Days of '49 come alive for a modern family in Cape Sebastian, Oregon, as they witness a deadly mutiny aboard the clipper ship Red Phantom — right in their own living room!

bottom of page