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! You can reach us at: R18Collective@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
Comedies

Animal magnetism  |  ELIZABETH INCHBALD  |  1788

Cast size:  5M, 2W

Click here for the text

This play turns on the complex schemes employed by their female characters to get what they want in a social and sexual economy which rarely ever takes their desires seriously. This farce has great fun ridiculing masculine claims to knowledge, critiquing mansplaining avant la lettre. Animal Magnetism plays out in three short acts. Producing this play would have immediate comic appeal and would re-introduce audiences to hitherto neglected women playwrights.

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A bold stroke for a wife  |  Susanna Centlivre  |  1718

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

Click here for the text

Young 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

Click here for the text

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)

Click here for the text

In this rollicking farce, Mr. Daffodill is a fop/rake blend. He pretends to sleep with many women, but in fact is carrying on with Sophia’s friend Arabella. Sophia is determined to find out how bad he is firsthand, knowing that the more jealous Tukley loves her as well. She takes on breeches to pose as a young Italian gentleman. The other members of the club play out the world of excess Daffodil inhabits, many women get to see the bad behavior exposed, and eventually, Tukley and Sophia get together. 

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love in a village  |  Isaac bickerstaffe  |  1762

Cast size:  6M, 4W

Click here for the text

Rosetta, anxious about marriage to someone she's never met, runs away and becomes a chambermaid in Justice Woodcock’s house. Thomas Meadows is on a similar trajectory: he escapes his father to pose as a gardener in Woodcock’s household. After they fall in love, Sir William reveals that they were each other’s unknown betrothed. The narrative is suitably ludicrous but this musical comedy's representation of English country manners sends up class and gender norms brilliantly.

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The Author's Farce  |  Henry Fielding  |  1730

Cast size:  7-8 total, with doubling

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A satirical musical farce with actors playing puppets, long before Avenue Q was a glimmer in anyone's eye. A poor playwright named Luckless concludes that the only way to make money in a market for mindless entertainment is to produce a puppet show. It moves from Punch and Joan to metacriticism of print and performance media that are flooding the market. The sendup of an entertainment industry pandering to consumers and driven by motives of profit rather than aesthetic or moral value is as relevant as ever.  

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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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tragedies

Ponteach  |  Robert rogers  |  1766

Cast size:  7M, 2W (doubling possible)

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British trappers and government officials cheat, lie, and murder, causing the virtuous, indigenous leader Ponteach to revolt against them. Conflict between his two sons tragically foils his efforts at defeating the British, forecasting the divisions between indigenous tribes and the eventual success of British efforts to eradicate Indian resistance. The play reveals the greed and violence of North American colonial settlers and recasts the national origin story as tragic for its indigenous people.

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Zara  |  AAron Hill  |  1721

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

Click here for the text

A Turkish sultan and his European slave fall in blissful love and plan to marry until the latter discovers her Christian lineage and is plunged into unbearable conflict between her love for the Muslim sultan and pressure from her family to embrace Christianity. This play dramatizes the European fascination with the non-Christian “other” as well as the anxieties about religious difference that haunt that fascination. It was based on Voltaire's Zaïre and was a mainstay of the repertoire.

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The Revenge  |  Edward Young  |  1721

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

Click here for the text

An enslaved African prince plots revenge for himself and for the death and enslavement of thousands of his fellow Africans at the hands of European conquerors.  He heroically embodies black resistance to a white culture that seeks to deny who he really is–a threat to white dominance–in a plot that deeply unsettles complacent narratives of European colonialism. 

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Cato  |  Joseph Addison  |  1713

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

Click here for the text

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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A young apprentice to a wealthy merchant falls for the seductions of a woman who tempts him to commit adultery, theft, and murder.  Her motive? Revenge for a lifetime of exploitation by men.  The apprentice repents his crimes in the manly arms of his best friend while his temptress remains proudly defiant as both go to the gallows. 

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tragICOMEDIES & OTHER PLAYS

The West Indian  |  Richard Cumberland  |  1771

Cast size:  8M, 5W (doubling possible)

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A Creole son reunites with an English father who is wary of his son’s hybrid, colonial identity.  The son must learn how to court the English woman he desires. The son’s comic mistakes and the father’s near-tragic reluctance to own his son are resolved in the happy ending, offering a hopeful but overly theatrical resolution to the play’s uncertainties about colonial identity and the relationship between colonies and “the mother country.” 

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THE SWORD OF PEACE  |  MARIANA STARKE  |  1788

Cast size:  6W, 8M 

Click here for the text

Two English women flip the narrative of women who immigrate to the British colonies in order to find a husband by using their wit and courage to gain fortunes and then marry the men of their choice.  The play’s action mocks British colonial society for its abuses of power over Africans, Indians, and the poor, while our heroines embody hope for a Britain in which different genders, classes, and races live in egalitarian harmony. 

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SUCH THINGS ARE  |  Elizabeth Inchbald  |  1787

Cast size:  3W, 14M 

Click here for the text

Class-climbing and pretentious British colonials are played for satiric comedy, while a parallel plot about sympathetic, indigenous characters who are wrongfully imprisoned 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 

Click here for the text

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 Africans  |  Richard Cumberland  |  1808

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

Click here for the text

Colman projects English family values onto three African brothers and their aged mother in this anti-slavery play. One brother’s wedding day is disrupted by a warrior tribe ruled by a despot who decimates their village, killing inhabitants, taking them captive, or leaving them to starve.  Victorious, he seeks to sell his prisoners of war to British merchants who are all too ready to do business with him.  In the mean time, the two lovers are saved from a horrible death by the spectacle of the brothers’ love and loyalty to their mother and each other, which moves the despot to lift their death sentence and reward the lovers not only with their lives, but with a reward that will allow them to marry and support their families.

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