As an E.S.O.L. teacher (English to Speakers of Other Languages) on the middle school level in New Haven, I am always on the lookout for simple plays to enhance students’ enjoyment of oral reading. After a perusal of many Greek comedies spanning the Old, Middle, and New periods, I chose, for this year’s unit, an example of the latter,
by Menander, one of New Comedy’s foremost playwrights. I feel that the slapstick nature of the piece in addition to the theme of young love are particularly appealing to middle and high school level E.S.O.L. students, and can be incorporated into regular English, History, or Drama classes as well. Scaled-down drawings (thanks to Bobby Banquer, an artist and special education teacher at Celentano School) of masks on graph paper at the end of the unit lend themselves to art classes in particular but are simple enough for the regular classroom teacher or student to reproduce.
Part of the play’s attractiveness to me was its brevity (65 pages) and the realistic plot which even now, over 2000 years later, is a relevant contemporary theme. Add to this the fact that there can be as few as three or as many as thirteen parts (no more than three speaking actors were allowed on stage at the same time—presumably a rule of competitions like the Greater Dionysia and the Lenaea—to be explained later). This is especially suited to E.S.O.L. classes which vary considerably in size throughout the day, for those teachers looking for an “one-size-fits-all” play. Finally, and most importantly for beginning level or remedial readers are the realistic speech patterns employed. All the marks of everyday speech are there—the colloquial idiom, the simple clear vocabulary, the pauses, repetitions, and broken sentences—making the play truly accessible to today’s student.