A play in one-act by John Hardy

Production Details

AMERICAN TALL TALES has a running time of forty five minutes but has been adapted to fit into the high school drama competition length of thirty five minutes. It can be done with as few as four actors and as many as fifteen. The play has been performed by professionals, high school drama clubs and even younger. A bench, two stools, a few hand props and several costume pieces are all that is necessary. The imagination does the rest.

About the Play

THE PLAY consists of four short playlets, with a prologue, epilogue and two transitions. The playlets are approximately ten minutes each and the prologue, epilogue and transitions approximately one minute each.

The prologue, epilogue and transitions are amusing vignettes containing educational information about the art of theatre. The four playlets contained within the play include:

  • LITTLE MARGEY: A young girl who wants to be "popular, beautiful, well-liked" finds that calling upon her inner resources is the best way to fit in. Along the way, she discovers that water skiing and parachuting don't hold a candle to simply being herself.

  • THE LEGEND OF THE JACK O' LANTERN: At the time of the American Revolution, Jack returns from a Boy Scout meeting (where he was the only participant because "Boy Scouts haven't been invented yet") to find that his little sister has let the family fire go out while his mother was out "slaying a bison for dinner". He is sent to find fire. His quest takes him to the Jones family who can't help him because they are going to Miami until the war is over. He then encounters a game show host who sends Jack to the local Indian tribe where he is given coals for a fire. After encountering a pack of wolves, Jack carves out a pumpkin to carry the coals because they have been "burning a hole in his pocket". Jack returns home and saves the family from freezing while inadvertently inventing the Jack O' Lantern.

  • PURVIS: The story follows the life of a young boy named Purvis Wesley (who bears a great resemblance to Elvis Presley). With the help of a guardian angel, Purvis manages to invent Rock 'n Roll after failing at baseball and truckdriving as well as striking out with the girls. Purvis finds his place in the world simply by following the advice, "be true to yourself". Music and magic abound.

  • THE GHOST STALLION: Johnny Ringo is the lonesome cook on the cattle drive but he wants to become a cowboy. The only way he can do that is to tame the wild and deadly, Ghost Stallion of the West. One night, as the coyotes howl, Johnny encounters the legendary Stallion. He befriends the wild horse and becomes the first ever to ride the Ghost Stallion. The other cowboys wake to find that Johnny has become "the finest cowboy ever" as he "rides forever in that range up in the sky, watching out for all the lonesome cowboys below". Cowboy music, magic and mystery.

Royalty Fees

  • First two performances: $50 each
  • Subsequent performances: $30 each


Approx. 45 minutes
4-15 actors


"Fresh, innovative, amusing and even enlightening. It is pure theatre. Worthy of the attention of both children and adults. It is the sort of innovative theatre that has been missing for quite some time. Just the merest hint of costume and scenery accompany the intricate weavings of language employed to bring the four playlets to life." — Laura McBride, The Bristol Herald Courier