Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Playwright Spotlight: Get to Know Ken Preuss

Welcome to "Playwright Spotlight" — your exclusive backstage pass to the creative minds crafting the incredible plays featured in our Theatrefolk catalogue. Discover the magic, quirks, and genius of the playwrights who help bring the stage to life. Let's meet one of these exceptional playwrights who offers the chance for your student performers to shine in their spotlight.

What inspired you to start writing plays specifically for high school & middle school students?

I started writing plays for my own middle school drama students, taking their personalities and interests into account to create plays they were excited to see on stage.

Can you share a bit about your creative process when developing plays that resonate with students?

A lot of my plays were initially written for specific students. We'd improvise scenarios and brainstorm ideas together, then I'd take the best characters and moments from those sessions and develop them further. The students would be super excited when we'd hit on something fun during a drama club meeting, leading one of us, or all of us to chime in, "That's going in the play!"

Are there any challenges you face when writing for student performers, and how do you overcome them?

When I started writing for teens, I was a lot closer in age to them. As I have gotten older, they’ve stayed the same age, and I find it a bit harder to capture their voices as genuinely as I once did. A trick I’ve adopted on occasions is to a set play in the past where knew the language style or set it in the future where I can take conversations in new and creative directions.

What themes or messages do you aim to convey through your plays?

My scripts are mostly comedies with a bit of romance mixed in. I like to create plays where students can find the fun in exploring characters similar to themselves where audiences can see good choices and a good sense of humor rewarded with happy endings and those with ill intents getting their just desserts.

Can you share a memorable experience or feedback from a student performance that left an impact on you?

As a teacher and an active member of the theatre community, I’ve run into many students who were in my plays 20-plus years ago. It’s fun to hear memories of the shows, lines they still recall, and stories of how those early roles inspired them to continue pursuing the arts. I’ve even had students who became teachers and directed their students the same plays they once performed with me.

Any advice for teachers or directors looking to choose engaging and age-appropriate plays for their student performers?

My best advice is to get to know your students as well as you can. When you have genuine affection for the personalities and quirks of the kids you teach, it is much easier to find that special play that will let them shine. Find a script you really love, too. Students are intuitive, and if they sense your love for a project, they are more likely to give their hearts and souls to bring it to life. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot more fun.

What is your favourite play you've written so far?

I have a dozen published teen one acts and over 50 short plays, but Epic Adventures in a Rinky-Dink Art Museum ranks among my favorites. It has some of my most beloved characters, and just the right blend of mystery, romance, and comedy to keep the actors and audiences engaged and entertained.

Anything else you'd like students and/or directors to know about you as a playwright?

I became a teacher to guarantee an audience 5 days a week, but there is no greater joy than hearing a theatre full of students laughing and applauding for their friends in the spotlight. I’m humbled and honored that performers in 21 countries and all 50 States have brought my plays to life. I look forward to creating new scripts and new opportunities for students to shine.

Products referenced in this post: Epic Adventures in a Rinky-Dink Art Museum

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