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Zap: A Play

Zap: A Play

4.0 2
by Paul Fleischman

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Aimed at a generation of short attention spans and a taste for razor-sharp comedy, the rapid-fire ZAP is a smart, farcical new play for high-school students that's ready to bring the house down.

When they're not dusting off the old classics — over and over — high-school drama departments are constantly in search of new material. But what play


Aimed at a generation of short attention spans and a taste for razor-sharp comedy, the rapid-fire ZAP is a smart, farcical new play for high-school students that's ready to bring the house down.

When they're not dusting off the old classics — over and over — high-school drama departments are constantly in search of new material. But what play could possibly suit the point-and-click attention spans of kids born with remote controls in their cribs? Cue the lights for ZAP, a nonstop farce that juxtaposes seven different plays — performed simultaneously — with a comic genius reminiscent of masters from Monty Python to the Marx Brothers. Combining spot-on parodies of Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett, Neil Simon and performance art and throwing in scenes from RICHARD III for good measure, ZAP flicks rapidly back and forth from play to play, with hilarious results. As characters from one play end up on the set of another, their befuddlement, exasperation, and brave attempts at improvisation are truly priceless. A hoot to read, ZAP is a dream to perform — as high schools in California, New York, and Florida have already discovered.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his first play for young adults, Fleischman (Breakout) brings the idea of channel surfing to stage. His opening scene has a house manager inviting audience members to use imaginary remote controls when they feel the urge to switch plays. What follows is a hilarious clashing of conventions as periodic "zap" sounds signal changes of scene and genres of play. Clips from Shakespeare's Richard III plus six invented dramas representing a 1916 English mystery, a comedy set in Manhattan in the summer of 1965, a modern performance artist's one-woman show, a 19th-century Russian drama, a Southern play in a 1934 Mississippi mansion, and theatre of the absurd are juxtaposed against each other and eventually intermingle. The fun increases as actors become perturbed and confused about getting "cut off" before their scene is finished and step out of character every so often to speak their minds. The only connecting thread between the clips is a corpse that remains onstage throughout the entire production and becomes a focal point in many vignettes. The humor of each piece marks a stark contrast with the reality of the dead body onstage. With its large cast of characters, wide variety of challenging roles and simple set layout, this play (already produced in three schools across the country) offers a new intriguing option for young adults tired of the usual fare performed in high-school auditoriums. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Only in the twenty-first century could a writer indulge in such fancy as is found in this selection. Fleischman, well known for innovative approaches in past works, takes multi-tasking to a new level. Adolescent audiences, having lived with the remote control in one hand and a cell phone in the other, will welcome the seven plots in one between the covers of this small novel/play ensemble. Inspired by a high school marquee announcing yet another performance of Grease, the author toyed with the idea of a night of entertainment when the audience would seem to be in charge of the action, and had the power to switch from one play to another at will. The result is quick change in a range of plots from an English mystery, a comedy, a Southern, a Russian, an Avant-Garde, and of course, a Shakespearean play all linked by a Performance Art monologue. Lively dialogue interspersed with unexpected scene switches will keep the reader—or audience—at full attention. The dilemma will be whether to read or to act—that may be the question. Overall, this unique creation is for mature audiences, as some innuendo is sprinkled throughout as cast members quip intimately while still in character, sort of. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 12 up.
—Janice DeLong
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-For practiced young thespians bored with chestnuts like Grease or Romeo and Juliet, Fleischman dishes up a hilarious pastiche that mixes speeches from Shakespeare with original scenes done in the styles of Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Samuel Beckett, and Neil Simon-plus the occasional babble from Marsha, a neurotic performance artist. Working from the conceit that everyone in the audience gets a remote control to switch "channels" when interest lags, the author creates an increasingly rapid-fire sequence that has the various casts scuttling on and off stage, sometimes cut off in mid-line. Soon, they're losing their respective threads, falling out of character, and ultimately blending together in a general melee: "Whoa. Chekhov meets WrestleMania," as Marsha sardonically puts it. Requiring a large cast and players (not to mention audiences) sufficiently versed in stage history to "get" the array of theatrical conventions Fleischman's spoofing, this script will challenge and reward in equal measure any company courageous enough to take it on.-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"High art meets short attention span" in a new play that's really seven plays in one. Richard III shares the stage with parodies of Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett, Neil Simon, Agatha Christie and a performance artist in a show meant to appeal especially to teenagers with short attention spans. A snippet of each play is performed before being zapped by remote control to bring on the next. Chaos ultimately reigns as one play intrudes upon another: One actor trips over women's underwear left from a previous scene; two plays end up on stage at the same time; and two corpses share the spotlight, until the final (and welcome) curtain finally closes. Though Fleischman "had a ball writing it," it's likely to receive mixed reviews. However, high-school theater departments willing to experiment with something new might try this as an alternative to the same old reruns of Grease and Romeo and Juliet. (foreword, cast of characters, production notes) (Fiction. 14+)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.43(w) x 4.98(h) x 0.29(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Paul Fleischman is the master of the multi-voiced, multilayered book for young readers. His Newbery Medal-winning JOYFUL NOISE: POEMS FOR TWO VOICES is an invitation to verbal duets, while BIG TALK, its sequel, gives us poems for quartets. Of ZAP, his first play, he says, "High schools are always putting on the same plays. I decided to give them something new." Paul Fleischman is also the author of A FATE TOTALLY WORSE THAN DEATH, a parody of teenage horror novels; DATELINE: TROY, a modernized retelling of Homer's epic poem; and the award-winning picture books SIDEWALK CIRCUS, THE ANIMAL HEDGE, and WESLANDIA.

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Zap: A Play 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine for a moment that an audience at a play could channel surf between plays and genres. This is the premise of Paul Fleischman¿s play, 'Zap.' This play was test driven by four different high school drama departments, and the result is this published play. It is alternately a Shakespearean tragedy, a mystery, a drama taking place in two different families that have fallen on hard times 'one a Russian noble family, and one a family from the deep South', a couple who have encountered a corpse 'since it has worked so well in Weekend at Bernies' in their hotel room, and one self-absorbed monologue. Though there seems to be much critical acclaim for the play, I was unimpressed. Frankly, there were no characters that I could feel particularly attached to. It may be that this would be something that plays 'pardon the pun' out much better in performance. It is definitely a novel idea, and there were some humorous lines, but I wasn¿t awed by it.