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PLAYS & PITCHES
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The R/18 Collective is passionate about working with theatres to produce works from the Restoration and 18th century. The pitches on this page showcase some of the great but undeservedly forgotten plays of this era.

 

If you're an actor, director, or producer and want more information about any of these plays, we'd love to hear from you! In many cases, we also have performance cuts of them. You can reach us at: R18Collective@gmail.com

Comedies
Animal Magnetism
Bold Stroke
Wonder
Male Coquette
Love in a Village
Comedies

Animal magnetism  |  ELIZABETH INCHBALD  |  1788

Cast size:  5M, 2W

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The Doctor is really no doctor at all, and he keeps his ward Constance under lock and key. But Constance's lover has other ideas. Disguising himself as a practitioner in the the art of mesmerism – “animal magnetism” – he tricks his way into the house.. This hilarious farce, one of Dickens’s favorite plays, ridicules pseudo-science and, above all, men who try to control smart young women.

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A bold stroke for a wife  |  Susanna Centlivre  |  1718

Cast size:  8M, 3W (doubling possible)

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Colonel Fainwell wants to marry Anne Lovely but there’s a problem: he needs the consent of all four of her guardians and they’re very different men. How can he possibly meet the combined approval of a stockbroker, a Quaker, an antiquarian, and an ageing fashionista? The answer: by becoming a stockbroker, a Quaker, an antiquarian, and a fashionista.

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The Wonder  |  Susanna Centlivre  |  1714

Cast size:  7-8M, 4-5W

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A woman hides with a friend rather than face a forced marriage. But can that friend keep the secret, even if the goings-on rouse the suspicions of her jealous hothead lover? Of course! This sparkling comedy of confusions and near escapes takes male possessiveness to task and celebrates female friendship and solidarity. 

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The male coquette   |  David Garrick  |  1757

Cast size:  7M, 5W (doubling possible)

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Daffodil wants people to believe he sleeps around. In fact, he’s only got eyes for Arabella. Enter Arabella’s friend, Sophia, who’s determined to expose Daffodil for the fake rake he is – by posing as a young Italian nobleman. This gender-bending farce is brilliant take-down of male bravado and the sexual double-standard.

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love in a village  |  Isaac bickerstaffe  |  1762

Cast size:  6M, 4W

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Worried about marrying someone she’s never met, Rosetta runs away from home. Thomas has escaped home for the same reason. Taking up work in the same household as a chambermaid and gardener, they quickly fall in love. This musical comedy’s take on English country manners brilliantly sends up class and gender norms.

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The Author's Farce  |  Henry Fielding  |  1730

Cast size:  7-8 total, with doubling

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Penniless playwright Luckless realizes that the only way to make money in a market for mindless entertainment is to produce a puppet show. A satirical musical farce with actors playing puppets, long before Avenue Q was a glimmer in anyone's eye, Fielding's play sends up an entertainment industry pandering to consumers and driven by profit rather than aesthetic or moral value. It's as relevant as ever.

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Author's Farce
Wives as they Were
Belle's Strat
Discovery
Law Against Lovers
City Heiress
Runaway

Wives as they were, maids as they are  |  Elizabeth inchbald  |  1797

Cast size:  7M, 3W

Click here for the text

The wife: tyrannized by her husband and harassed by an unwanted admirer. The maid: fed up with being told how to behave by condescending men. Both women are financially and sexually entrapped by an ideal of domestic femininity. Inchbald's searching - and brilliantly funny - exploration of how women can resist men’s control over their bodies in a sex/gender system that grants them so little agency has never been more urgent.

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THE DISCOVERY  |  FRANCES SHERIDAN  |  1763

Cast size:  5W, 4M

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Sir Harry Flutter and his wife Lady Flutter are a naive married couple who fight over silly things while stuffy, curmudgeonly Lord Medway tries to marry off his children to repair his own fortunes. The bad dad is eventually brought low through the “discovery” that the rich widow he wants his son to marry is, in fact, Medway’s daughter. Written by the mother of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who drew on his mother’s work for key scenes in The Rivals and The School for Scandal, Frances Sheridan’s The Discovery reflects a thorough knowledge of comic stagecraft, crowd-pleasing comic devices, and a prescient awareness of gender dynamics. 

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THE BELLE'S STRATAGEM  |  HANNAH COWLEY  |  1780

Cast size:  5W, 7M (4W, 6M with doubling)

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Letitia is betrothed to Doricourt, but she wants a real relationship with him, not an obligation. Cowley’s answer to She Stoops to Conquer, includes meaty roles for women, references to the American revolution, a fop, a helpful ex-boyfriend, and critiques of conventional gender. This is a crowd-pleasing comedy with a contemporary track record of success. 

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THE LAW AGAINST LOVERS  |  WILLIAM DAVENANT  |  1662

Cast size:  5W, 13M (multiple opportunities for doubling)

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The marriage market is open in this winning mash-up of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure. Featuring singing, dancing, sword-fights, and Davenant’s answer to the problems of both originals, The Law Against Lovers offers the comfort of familiarity with the piquancy of surprise. 

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THE CITY HEIRESS  |  APHRA BEHN  |  1682

Cast size:  5W, 7

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The "City Heiress," Charlot, is wooed by Sir Timothy Treat-All, a "seditious knight," and his nephew, the rakish Tom Wilding. When Treat-All disinherits his nephew, Wilding takes revenge in a fast-paced carnivalesque romp through mistaken identities, a faked burglary, and a false offer of kingship. In the end, Wilding receives his inheritance and Charlot’s hand; on the way, the play interrogates women’s precarious social position in a world where no safety is guaranteed. 

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THE RUNAWAY  |  HANNAH COWLEY  |  1776

Cast size:  5W, 7

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Hargrave wants Lady Dinah’s fortune for his son George. Lady Dinah wants George, period. George wants Emily. Emily does not want Baldwin. Miscommunication, the delights of rural life, and wit take center stage in this comedy where love–but not alway marriage–wins the day. 

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THE HAUNTED HOUSE  |  JOSEPH ADDISON  |  1716

Cast size:  2W, 7

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Rich widow Lady Truman is beset by suitors - all of them after her fortune. To make matters worse, a ghostly drumming disturbs the house each night, terrifying her and the servants alike. But reports of George Truman's death have been greatly exaggerated. Disguised as a conjuror, he returns home determined to get rid of the suitors - including the "ghost" - and discover whether his wife still loves him. A comedy that skewers vanity, greed, and superstition.

 

 

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WHO's THE DUPE?  |  HANNAH COWLEY  |  1716

Cast size:  2W, 4

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Elizabeth’s father – a rich, Cockney merchant – is determined to marry her to a man of learning. The man in question is Gradus, a stuffy Oxford academic who knows lots about obscure classical texts and nothing at all about how to woo a woman. But Elizabeth has other ideas. Her preference is for Granger, a poor but dashing captain in the army (who loves Elizabeth… and her fortune). With the aid of her cousin and Granger’s friend, can Elizabeth see to it that Granger not Gradus wins her hand? In this riotous two-act farce, the scholar must pass as a man of fashion, and the man of fashion as a scholar.

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THE MOGUL TALE  |  ELIZABETH INCHBALD  |  1784

Cast size:  4W, 5

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What do you get when you put an English quack doctor, a cobbler, and his wife in a hot air balloon that lands in Turkey? Inchbald’s farce pokes fun at the craze for hot air balloons, ridiculous ideas about Muslims, and English nationalism. The play contrasts the Sultan’s compassion with British imperialism as the foolish English carry the farce.

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THE BUSY BODY  |  SUSANNA CENTLIVRE  |  1709

Cast size:  4W, 6

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A young woman, her handsome lover, and their friends plot to escape a controlling guardian in this clever and hilarious comedy. But will the nosy Marplot - the "busy body" - ruin the plan? Packed with brilliant characters, Centlivre's hugely popular play pits parents against children and explores how women might find freedom of choice in an age of the marriage contract.

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WILD OATS  |  JOHN O'KEEFFE  |  1791

Cast size:  3W, 14M (doubling possible)

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The characters (many of whom are pretending to be someone else) practice for an upcoming performance of As You Like It. It’s a rollicking comedy full of juicy details about eighteenth century playcraft - how to memorize lines, how to come in and out of character, and in-jokes about Shakespearian performance - that make it a great choice for a Shakespeare festival. 

 

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THE SUSPICIOUS HUSBAND  |  BENJAMIN HOADLY  |  1747

Cast size:  7W, 9M (doubling possible)

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A jealous husband and a virtuous wife. Two lively young couples whose attempts to get together are both advanced and impeded by their unattached ‘friend’: the comical, agile, foolish rake Ranger. A farcical comedy with teeth, The Suspicious Husband examines the suffering of what we would now call coercive control in marriage contrasted with the high spirits of freewheeling men and women about town.

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Haunted House
Dupe
Mogul Tale
Busy Body
Wild Oats
Suspicious Husband
tragedies

ALL FOR LOVE  |  JOHN DRYDEN  |  1677

Cast size:  4, 6M 

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This stellar example of “Restoration Shakespeare” is a revision of Anthony and Cleopatra with depth, thoughtfulness, and order, including a much reduced cast of 10. A middle-aged Anthony cannot get over his loss at Actium and dallies with the tempestuous Cleopatra, who rejects the wifely role that a scorned Octavia embodies. A great choice to pair with Anthony and Cleopatra or as an alternative Shakespeare, All for Love is rich in figurative language, a psychological portrait of infidelity, midlife crisis, and political intrigue. 

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Zara  |  AAron Hill  |  1721

Cast size:  6M, 2W (doubling possible)

Click here for the text

Zara is enslaved to the Turkish Sultan, but they fall in love. Yet when Zara discovers her Christian lineage, she’s plunged into an unbearable conflict: between love for a Muslim man and pressure from her family to embrace Christianity. Based on Voltaire's Zaïre, Hill’s tragedy explores the anxieties about religious difference that haunt the European fascination with the non-Christian.

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The Revenge  |  Edward Young  |  1721

Cast size:  5M, 3W (some doubling possible)

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Zanga, an African prince enslaved by Spanish conquerors, experiences one indignity too many: his master's callous slap resolves Zanga to plot gruesome, calculated revenge. Tracing the corrosive effects of disrespect and micro-aggressions within a hegemonic system, Young's tragedy dramatizes what propels oppressed peoples to revolt.

 

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Cato  |  Joseph Addison  |  1713

Cast size:  9M, 2W (with minor doubling)

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The plot sets the values of representative government and virtuous nationalism against the tyranny and greed of a despot, the former embodied in the republican Cato, the latter in the tyrant Caesar.  Juba, a Numidian prince, holds out hope for continuing Cato’s virtuous nationalism into a future fight against tyranny.  The play’s themes speak to the sacrifices currently being made by those fighting for Ukrainian freedom as well as to the despotism of a Putin.  The character of Juba brings to the stage the importance of including brown and black peoples in any sustainable vision of democracy.  

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The London Merchant |  George lillo  |  1731

Cast size:  5M, 3W

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Capitalism vs. Morality is predictably gendered in this tragedy... but the irresistible villainess could be "ripped from the headlines" of a Hollywood blockbuster. The wealthy merchant's apprentice commits adultery, theft, and even murder at the behest of a temptress. Her motive? Revenge for a lifetime of exploitation by men. Both go to the gallows, but she remains proudly defiant to the end.  

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DE MONFORT |  JOANNA BAILLIE  |  1798

Cast size:  4W, 7M (doubling possible)

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De Monfort - wealthy, respected, loved - is driven to madness and murder by his all-consuming hatred of another man. Is he truly being goaded or is it all in his imagination? And is his love for his saintly sister really that of a brother? Baillie's gothic tragedy powerfully demonstrates her belief that theatre was the preeminent place for dissecting the human passions.

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THE MASSACRE |  ELIZABETH INCHBALD  |  1792

Cast size:  2W, 9M (doubling possible)

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Inchbald daringly explores the causes and costs of revolutionary violence by focusing on the desperate plight of a single family as the mob arrives at their door. Written in 1792, as the French Revolution spiralled into bloodshed, and too politically provocative to be staged, this short tragedy - which can be performed in just 40 minutes - remains chillingly timely.

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VENICE PRESERVED |  THOMAS OTWAY  |  1682

Cast size:  2W, 7M

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Poor and disaffected, Jaffeir joins a group of conspirators plotting a bloody coup against the Venetian state. But when one conspirators attempts to assault his wife, Belvidera, Jaffeir's loyalties are torn. In Otway's political tragedy, the senate is utterly corrupt, but those who seek political change are no better. Women are, inevitably, the collateral in this bleak and chilling exploration of power, desire, and self-interest.

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Tragedies
All for Love
Zara
Revenge
Cato
London Merchant
De Monfort
Massacre
Oroonoko
King Lear
MIXED GENRE PLAYS

KING LEAR  |  NAHUM TATE  |  1681

Cast size:  3W, 8M (doubling possible) 

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Adapted from the Shakespeare play of the same name, Tate's wildly popular version cuts the Fool but ends happily: with justice restored and Lear resigning his throne to Cordelia, alive and well and married to Edgar.

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SUCH THINGS ARE  |  Elizabeth Inchbald  |  1787

Cast size:  3W, 14M 

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Set in Sumatra, this comedy skewers the class-climbing and pretentiousness of British colonials, while a parallel plot about sympathetic, wrongfully imprisoned indigenous characters plays out the dark undertones of colonial oppression.  A Sultan is reunited with a wife who was wrongly incarcerated and is moved to reform the unjust and oppressive systems that led to her imprisonment. 

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oroonoko  |  Thomas Southerne  |  1696

Cast size:  7M, 2W 

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Southerne's play - based on Aphra Behn's novella - gives us the drama of an African Prince and his beloved who have been sold into slavery in the British colony of Surinam. This play opens an opportunity for actors to explore what W.E.B. Dubois has called “double-consciousness”: how African chattel slavery and its historical legacy have endowed Black people with knowledge of Eurocentric culture and values while denying their claims to social being and, ultimately, life itself.

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THE ENCHANTED ISLAND  |  DAVENANT & DRYDEN  |  1667

Cast size:  5W, 9M (doubling possible) 

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This reworking of The Tempest gives both Miranda and Caliban sisters, and also adds a man who's never seen by a woman (Hippolito) - a role designed to be played by a woman! Prospero, meanwhile, is a far darker character: never in control, anxious of his power, and full of sadistic rage when his plans unravel. Despite its happy ending, the play's troubling questions about political authority remain.

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Such Things Are
Tragicomedies
Enchanted Island
Venice
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