Ben Johnson, Maggie Mason, and Kyle Payne in Oskar and the Big Bully Battle
Photo by Tracy Martin for TheatreWorks
The Oskar Plays are an acclaimed series of shows for young audiences that deal with relevant and challenging subject matter—bullying, resilience and grit, diversity, gender stereotypes, and more—and feature outrageous costumes and props, colorful sets, heaps of humor, and wild theatrical imagination. For more than ten years, the plays have toured to hundreds of elementary schools, reaching hundreds of thousands of children in California, Texas, and Pennsylvania and receiving an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from students, teachers, administrators, and parents. The plays have also been showcased at the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) Conference and the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists, and are continuing to increase their national visibility.
Designed for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, four Oskar plays were originally commissioned by the Tony Award-winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California, and developed with the assistance of the Palo Alto Unified School District, Project Cornerstone, and Project Safety Net. Three additional Oskar plays were commissioned by the Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas.
All plays in the Oskar series were designed for three adult actors and a stage manager, and are meant to tour easily to spaces of varying configurations. Each play in the series runs approximately 35 minutes long, which fits within most schools' assembly lengths, leaving room for a post-show Q&A with students. The shows are currently available to license to theater companies and other arts organizations.
A short oral history of The Oskar Plays,
as told by Mary Sutton, Education Director of the Alley Theatre,
on "CBS Eye on Houston":
Matt Ackels is a playwright, television writer, and fiction writer. He joined the Oskar team in 2012, and has co-written the four most recent Oskar Plays. As a
playwright, his work has been produced throughout the country. Companies and venues include the Alley Theatre, TheatreWorks, Walnut Street Theatre, and Zephyr Theatre. His newest play received awards from the Planet Earth Arts Foundation and PlayGround LA. For television, he was most recently a writer on Seasons 1 and 2 of DreamWorks’ Netflix series, Trolls. Currently, he is developing a new television pilot with Bobby Goldstein Productions. His short fiction has appeared in The Atheaum and Connu, among other publications, and he served two years as the Editor-in-Chief of the Southern California Review, a national literary journal. He is a native Texan living in Los Angeles.
Prince Gomolvilas is the co-creator and original playwright of The Oskar Plays. His stage work includes Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love, a groundbreaking comedy
about a Thai-American family; The Theory of Everything, which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Drama and was published by Dramatic Publishing; and The Brothers Paranormal, which was produced off-Broadway by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and in Saint Paul by Penumbra Theatre & Theatre Mu, with upcoming productions slated for Indianapolis, Portland, and Seattle. His work has been produced around the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, and Thailand. Companies and venues include The Drill Hall, East West Players, Impact Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, and Singapore Repertory Theatre. His TEDx talk, “Mind the Gap,” was presented at Chapman University. He currently teaches in the David Henry Hwang Writers Insitute at East West Players, the nation's longest-running theatre of color, and is the former Associate Director of the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where he was also an Assistant Professor in Writing. He received his MFA in Playwriting from San Francisco State University. www.princegomolvilas.com
Mary Sutton is the co-creator and original director of The Oskar Plays. She is the Director of Education at the Alley Theatre, and has been in theatre education for 24
years with a specialty in cultural animation pieces for diverse communities, public and private schools, and colleges. She has designed arts curriculum from pre-K through college all over the United States in Viewpoints, acting, playwriting, and conservatory training. She has launched many award-winning programs, including exemplary arts integration and core curriculum initiatives, Concepts at Play for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and Staging STEM for the Alley Theatre. She created, designed, and implemented the Arts Integration Network in California—a mentorship arts-integration teacher-training program that was highlighted by the Partners-in-Education program at the Kennedy Center. Additionally, she worked in the Rural Arts initiative in the Southeast, sponsored by the NEA, where she pioneered Applied Theatre Techniques from 1990-1998. She is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts in Acting, working directly with Stella Adler, and American Repertory Theatre’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Studies at Harvard in Directing, assisting Andre Serban and Robert Brustein.