The collection, Signature in Schools Vol. I, is comprised of the following plays written by Joe Calarco:
MY VACATION IN PARIS
In the months leading up to the French Revolution Thomas Jefferson’s two daughters spend an afternoon with revolutionary and early feminist Olympe De Gouges and her son Pierre learning about the Revolution and questioning their own understanding of the word freedom. With the two girls is their slave Sally Hemings who is faced with a decision regarding her own freedom that will alter all of their lives.
While his classmates study Ancient Sumer, Daniel struggles with his own relationship to Iraq, where his father was blinded in the First Gulf War. As Rasha, a young girl in modern Basra, writes hopeful letters to her imaginary American friend, two Iraqi boys wrestle with how to take patriotic and meaningful action as burgeoning adults in a time of great change. Eventually we learn of Rasha’s heartbreaking connection to Daniel’s family and her own shocking course of action as her hope turns to hate after the death of her own father. The ancient Sumerian story of Lugalbanda, the prince who was granted great speed by the gods to help his country in war, is woven through the piece. Three or more dancers create the environment and reenact the stories of the past told throughout the play.
Civil War reenactments: a tradition that goes back for generations. As a group of students at an all-girls school participate in their annual reenactment, the core of the tradition itself is questioned. With no easy answers, civil wars, patriotism, ethics and values all get questioned by the girls, led by politically active student Jane, and their teacher Mrs. Stitkovic, an immigrant from war-torn Bosnia. With visitations from ghosts, thought-provoking discussion, and violent protests, the girls find themselves in situations that will change them forever.
While preparing for a class paper about the aftermath of political tragedies, stories of survival come alive before contemporary high school student Ruth. In the aftermath of Katrina, two young people struggle to survive in the face of extreme disaster. In 1945 Belgium, an adolescent Jewish girl struggles to maintain her identity and dignity. And, in the Congo, a girl faces situations that stretch beyond the devastating and into the unspeakable. Each of these stories interconnect in ways that remind Ruth (and the audience) of the incredible suffering mankind has endured and persisted through.
Students from an all-girls school accidently invoke a young Will Shakespeare. Finding that his conjurers know more about his work than he does, Shakespeare gains confidence that his destiny is to create immortal characters and reveal timeless truths. His doubting wife, Anne Hathaway, follows him into the future to challenge his aspirations, and in confronting her, young “Will” becomes the “William” of his dreams.