Play Suitability Suggestions and Study Guides

Play descriptions provide content information and suggestions for student viewing; study guides enhance appreciation and understanding of the plays.


Each school and community is unique, so read carefully to determine what is appropriate for your students. Please be aware that these suggestions are made before the plays go into rehearsal. Occasionally, decisions are made during the rehearsal process or preview performances that change the suitability of a production. When changes occur, the Education Department posts updated suitability suggestions on our website and makes every effort to contact group leaders.



Gain a deeper understanding of one or more of the plays. Created every season, the suggestions for teaching contain discussion questions, research topics, related websites and additional resources.

Teachers who bring a student group to OSF are mailed copies of these teaching suggestions, as well as information on preparing students for their live theatre experience and the Illuminations guide to the season's plays, including a who's who of characters and synopses of many of the stories.

All downloads are in PDF format and require Adobe Reader to view and print. 

The Tempest

by William Shakespeare, February 14 – November 2

For 12 years, the exiled Duke Prospero has waited for this moment: Old enemies have sailed too close to his enchanted island, and a mighty storm has forced them ashore. Now it’s time to settle old scores and reclaim his former dukedom for his daughter, Miranda. Aided by supernatural powers, Prospero dispenses justice while overseeing the growing attraction between Miranda and the princely son of one of his foes. In Shakespeare’s romance, rough magic and love transmute vengeance into humility and humanity, making it possible for all to return to a world made new by the power of forgiveness. The Tempest contains scenes of comic drunkenness and discussions of violent acts, including an attempted rape. The play is suitable for younger playgoers although, given the complexity of the language and themes, it may be best suited for middle and high school students. Prologue recommended. 

Study guide.

The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window

by Lorraine Hansberry, February 15 – July 6 

Greenwich Village, New York, 1964. A neighborhood brimming with artists, activists and ex-communists. Sidney Brustein is a Jewish intellectual who has grown so weary of the world’s corruption that he’s lost the will to fight anyone except his beleaguered wife, Iris. But when a friend lures him into a local political battle, and Iris begins to yearn for a different life, Sidney is forced to decide what’s worth fighting for. Lorraine Hansberry’s neglected classic is being staged on the 50th anniversary of the play’s premiere. It contains many adult themes and situations including: prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, homosexual slurs, sexuality, and suicide. Mature high school students prepared for these elements and for a language-driven drama, may enjoy this rare chance to see a revered American playwright’s frank, inside look at a world on the cusp of change. Prologue recommended.

Study guide.

The Cocoanuts

Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin; book by George S. Kaufman, with additional text by Morrie Ryskind, adapted by Mark Bedard, February 16 – November 2 

The service stinks but the gags are four-star in this Marx Brothers romp. Groucho owns a sketchy hotel in Florida and peddles dubious real estate to gullible Northerners seeking a home in the sun. He’s after a rich society dame who’s after an eligible match for her daughter, who’s in love with Jameson, the hotel clerk. Their love story provides the heart that balances the Marx Brothers’ wacky comedy. Mark Bedard (Groucho in OSF’s production of Animal Crackers) will adapt this jazz-age gem. The music is courtesy of a young, relatively unknown Irving Berlin, giving us an opportunity to hear some little-known works by an American master. A treat for the entire family, this fresh, funny and warmhearted musical brims with sight gags, word play, song and dance.

Study guide.

A Wrinkle in Time

World premiere, based on the book by Madeline L’Engle, April 16 – November 1

Meg Murry feels like a misfit. She’s thirteen and struggles in school -- not because she doesn’t understand her math class, but because her scientist parents taught her simpler, more elegant ways to reach the answers. Her father has been missing for a long time, and she is deeply sensitive to the gossip that he has run away with another woman. She and her gifted younger brother Charles Wallace set off on an interplanetary quest to find their father. Even with the help of curious otherworldly beings, Meg has to conjure every power she can find, and then some, to put her family back together. A Wrinkle in Time is a beloved children’s classic with a female protagonist and equal respect for science, theology and individualism. It is suitable for the entire family. Teachers and parents of younger playgoers will need to use their discretion to assess their children’s sensitivity to the story’s strange and scary elements. The production will use puppetry, projections and the imagination of its artists to create worlds that are both fantastical and familiar.

Study guide.

The Great Society

by Robert Schenkkan, July 24 – November 1

Lyndon Baines Johnson is a figure of Shakespearean dimensions. Larger-than-life, possessing tremendous gifts and enormous flaws, he is the consummate politician. Two years ago Robert Schenkkan and OSF explored the beginnings of LBJ’s tenure as president with the popular and acclaimed All the Way. The same director, design team and much of the same cast return in 2014 to tell the rest of the story; the great successes of the Voting Rights Act and Medicare tempered by the political quagmire and unimaginable human costs of the Vietnam War. Robert Schenkkan’s script is extremely well-researched and covers the historical events, characters and backroom politicking in an engaging way. The play contains frequent strong profanity and racial epithets. It is suitable for well-prepared middle and high school students who can handle the language and who have some preparation on the complex political issues of the time. This OSF American Revolutions world premiere is highly recommended for students interested in politics and US history. Prologue recommended.

Study guide available soon.

This production is an original work commissioned by and developed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The script may be revised up to opening day. We will post a study guide as soon as possible, but it might not be available until the play opens.

The Comedy of Errors

by William Shakespeare, February 20 – November 2 

Twenty-three years before the play begins, twin sons were born to Egeon and Aemilia of Syracuse while staying at an inn abroad. A poor woman at the same inn gave birth to twins at the same time, and Egeon acquired them to be servants to his sons. But alas, as they were sailing home to Syracuse they were shipwrecked. One son and one servant were saved by Egeon, but Aemilia and the other two babies disappeared. Years later, Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio are searching for their long lost twin brothers. In desperation they have come to Ephesus, a country at war with Syracuse. Unbeknownst to them, their twin brothers, also named Antipholus and Dromio, live in Ephesus. Four acts of mistaken identity and misunderstanding ensue before everything is sorted out happily. This year’s production is set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance. The hijinks will move to a jazz beat, Duke Ellington-style. Although there is a plot twist involving the town courtesan with the potential for some bawdy comedy, this delightful and silly romp is suitable for middle and high school students. Prologue recommended. 

Study guide.

Study guide Spanish.

Water by the Spoonful

by Quiara Alegria Hudes, March 26 – June 20 and September 3 – November 2 

Odessa is a recovering drug addict who runs a chat-room support group for people trying to kick the habit or stay clean. She is the anchor for a software mogul, a recent college graduate and an IRS employee who have found strength and support with her and each other through the anonymity of the computer and their chat-room aliases. Meanwhile Elliot, an Iraq War veteran, works at Subway and tries to deal with the memory of an event that literally haunts him. These two worlds, virtual and real, unfold onstage, challenging our notions of family, forgiveness, community and courage. This Pulitzer Prize winning play is about the things that hold us back and the people who help us move forward. It deals with crack addiction and post traumatic stress disorder, as well as the advantages and limits of connecting through the cyber-world. Water by the Spoonful contains strong profanity and vivid descriptions of tragic occurrences from the past, including the violence of the Iraq War. It may be best suited for mature high school students who are prepared to handle the language and themes. Prologue recommended.

Study guide.

Family Album

book and lyrics by Stew, music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, July 5 – August 31 

Singer-songwriter Heimvey and his band are still rocking it in their fifties. They are also still on the road, living out of their van and the Motel 6. Their dreams of making it big are giving way to some sober realities. When they hit Brooklyn, they visit a former band mate turned stockbroker who lives in a comfortable home with his wife, who is also Heimvey’s ex-girlfriend. Pretty soon everybody is questioning the choices they have made. Does settling down equal selling out? Is the rock dream really better than a nice home and family? Family Album is a boisterous rock and roll musical that takes an irreverent look at the dilemmas facing anyone trying to be an artist – or a parent – in today’s world. It contains frequent strong profanity and sexual song lyrics. Mature high school students who can handle these elements will enjoy this rollicking world premier. As the play is still in development, check back closer to opening for possible updates.

Study guide available soon.

This production is an original work commissioned by and developed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The script may be revised up to opening day. We will post a study guide as soon as possible, but it might not be available until the play opens. 

Richard III

by William Shakespeare, June 3 – October 10 

Edward IV is on the English throne, but his younger brother Richard wants to be so he plots to eliminate all the brothers and nephews that stand ahead of him in the line of succession. Richard is an intelligent, seductive villain who ultimately ascends to the throne only to have a have a troubled two year reign. Shakespeare’s device to have Richard share his schemes and tactics directly with the audience allows us to vicariously enjoy his cunning plots and still ultimately approve of his downfall.  A dynamic look at the nature of obsessive ambition through the eyes of an exceptionally talented sociopath, the play is action-packed and engaging. There is sensuality and violence inherent in the text. Richard III is best suited for teenagers who can handle the adult themes and have some preparation for the political intricacies of the story. Prologue recommended.

Study guide available soon.

Into the Woods

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by James Lapine, June 4 – October 11 

What do you get when you take Jack and his beanstalk, Little Red and her Wolf, Cinderella, Rapunzel and their respective Princes, the Baker and his wife, and a ubiquitous witch and mix them all up in the same forest? What do you get if it’s written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, two of the premiere musical theatre artists of our time? You get a quirky, suspenseful, unpredictable and surprisingly dangerous trip into the woods. Two trips actually. Act One mixes and interweaves the characters but takes them to the conclusion of their stories as we know them. Act Two reminds us that life goes on after the fairy tale is over, that life and death are still awaiting us all, and that we may have to take more than one journey into the woods. Mature elementary school students and up who are ready for a darker view of the nature of our fables and legends will thoroughly enjoy this classic of the American musical theatre.

Study guide available soon.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

by William Shakespeare, June 5 – October 12 

Young Proteus only has eyes for his hometown sweetheart, Julia. But on a trip to Milan, he gets one look at the lovely Silvia . . . and dumps Julia in a heartbeat. Two problems: Silvia is his best friend’s girl, and Julia won’t be dumped that easily. Stir in some bandits, an outraged father and a bad-mannered dog, and this tale of romantic rivals asks: Is all really fair in love? This early Shakespeare comedy is full of twists and turns that echo in his later plays. Shakespeare’s plays were originally presented by an all male cast. In a twist on that scenario, this Elizabethan-inspired production will feature an all female cast. The Two Gentlemen of Verona contains threats of violence, but nothing is carried out and the play resolves in forgiveness and happy endings for all. It is suitable for all ages and may be an excellent way to introduce new playgoers to Shakespeare. Prologue recommended.

Study guide available soon.

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