7 characters. 4F, 3M; 20 pages long. Approximately 20 minutes running time. A comedy for teens about outsmarting greedy developers written by August Mergelman.

The New School Marm tells the story of Dot, the new school marm. She and Ben, the school’s oldest student, start off on the wrong foot but quickly form an alliance when the survival of the school is threatened. Minnie and Max start surveying the property on which the school is built. Minnie wants to build a posh resort on the land, and Max wants to help her. Will the school be replaced by a hotel and casino? The class’s recent history lesson regarding the Battle of Puebla (remembered today as Cinco de Mayo) may come in particularly handy. A fun play for kids about putting your education to use!

As a playwright, August Mergelman has one simple goal: to bring classical works to the modern audience. It seems that so many of the world’s great dramas are obscured by their own magnitude. August does not believe that any of history’s great playwrights would truly want their works to be intimidating or bewildering. First and foremost, they were showman; they crafted their works to be engaging, challenging, and most importantly, entertaining. As a fourth-generation Colorado native, August is proud of his western heritage, which is manifest in several of his western settings. His works have been featured in the Playwrights’ Showcase of the Western Region and the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association’s Playwrighting Competition.

Excerpt from the play:

CAST OF CHARACTERS

BEN WARREN – An unschooled young man of nineteen and a half.
DOT DELANEY – A young but savvy school teacher, new to town.
MAX MULLINS – The meanest miser this side of the Rio Grande.
MINNIE MOSS – The would-be proprietress of a fancy hotel.
BEA – A diligent student.
KAY – Bea’s friend.
JAY – Ben’s friend.

TIME
Early Spring in the Late 1800’s or Early 1900’s.

PLACE
Small-Town America.

SETTING 
It is an early morning in the interior of a modest but tidy one-room school house.

AT RISE: Minnie Moss, overdressed for the occasion, tentatively peeks her head around the corner before entering.

MINNIE
Hullo?… Anyone here?… Too early for school, I guess. Children are just so spoiled these days.

BEN
Who’s there?

MINNIE
Oh! You startled me, young man!

(Enter BEN, hat in his hand.)

BEN
Beg pardon, Ma’am. You the new school marm?

MINNIE
New school mistress? Certainly not. I’m here on a business matter.

BEN
Oh. Never heard of a business matter in a schoolhouse before.

MINNIE
(Aside) Small wonder he’s ever heard of either. (To BEN) Are you a student here?

BEN
Student? I’m nineteen and half years old! Made it halfway through the seventh grade, though.

MINNIE
You’ve not attended school in all those years?

BEN
What do you mean? I was comin’ pretty regular up until last spring!

MINNIE
Oh?

BEN
Well, sorta regular. I guess I’m just not in any hurry to get myself educated. May as well just let it happen gradual, I reckon.

MINNIE
I see, and might I inquire about your presence here?

BEN
I ain’t sure what you’re askin’ me. I was just hopin’ to have word with the new school marm before school starts.

MINNIE
Oh, you hope to reenroll in the… seventh grade?

BEN
Yip, and I was hopin’ me and her could start the school year off on the right foot.

MINNIE
(Aside) Start the school year? It’s already springtime.

BEN
You see, I usually get along with every new school marm pretty good for about… oh, a week or so—I’d say. After that, things… tend to go south.

MINNIE
Bit of a mischief-maker, are you?

BEN
Now, I don’t choose to see it that way. Heart’s in the right place. I reckon I just I have a peculiar way of… amusin’ myself.

MINNIE
(Aside) Hm. Amusing. (To BEN) Now, if you’ll excuse me, young man. I’m expecting to meet someone myself.

BEN
(Feeling unwelcome) Oh. Alright, then. I’ll just do my waitin’… outside. I’ll let you know if I see someone comin’ this way.

MINNIE
Very well. In his letter, he told me I’d know him by the red silk handkerchief in his breast pocket.

BEN
Why, that sounds like Max Mullins. (Aside) The meanest miser this side of the Rio Grande.

MINNIE
Mr. Mullins. That is correct.

BEN
(Aside) If she’s meeting up with that crook here, I’d like to know what about. Maybe I’ll just do a little eavesdroppin’. (Tipping his cap as he puts it on) Good day, Ma’am.

MINNIE
Good day.

(Exit BEN. MINNIE looks around disdainfully.)

MINNIE
Insolent youth. How utterly… unschooled. (Amused at her own joke) Hmpf.

(Enter MAX from the other direction.)

MAX
Good morning, Miss Moss.

MINNIE
Oh, Mr. Mullins. You gave me a start. I expected you through the front door.

MAX
Oh? Beg pardon, Miss Moss. (Aside) If she knew anything about me at all, she’d know that I never miss the opportunity to sneak up on an unsuspecting… client.

MINNIE
I may as well get right to the point, Mr. Mullins.

MAX
Please do.

MINNIE
I find this structure to be common, crude, and ungainly.

MAX
As do I. The solution is simple—demolition without delay.

MINNIE
My thoughts exactly. I’d waste no time there.

MAX
Oh?

MINNIE
Otherwise, I find the landscape perfectly charming, ideally suited for an exclusive hotel, patterned directly after those found only on the French Riviera, catering only to the wealthiest international patrons.

BEN
(Mouthing the word in disbelief) Hotel?

MAX
Delightful news, indeed. I can have the paperwork ready in less than an hour.

MINNIE
And then shall I meet you in town at your office?

MAX
(Aside) My office is my briefcase. A man only needs a place to work if he actually… works.

(To MINNIE) Unfortunately, my office is being… wallpapered. I think we should just meet here.

MINNIE
But won’t school be in session?

MAX
Miss Moss, the public schoolhouses exists at the leisure of us, the taxpaying citizens. Since the days of the schoolhouse are numbered anyway, the children may as well get used to the idea of being displaced by matters more important than education.

MINNIE
True, but that reminds me, Mr. Mullins—how is it again that you plan to persuade the local school board to sell the property?

MAX
I happen to be the county’s building inspector. I’m going to have this dilapidated pile of timbers condemned.

MINNIE
Persuasive indeed. And are there plans in the works to have a new schoolhouse constructed?

MAX
Miss Moss, how could such a tawdry matter possibly concern us?

MINNIE
I haven’t the foggiest notion. Forget I asked.

MAX
Forgotten, but don’t you forget that I’ll be the sole proprietor of the hotel’s casino, equipped with my very own custom-engineered, state-of-the-art roulette wheel, patent pending.

MINNIE
What’s a hotel on the French Riviera without a casino?

MAX
What’s a skunk without a stripe?

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