Classic Plays That Deserve the High School Comedy Treatment

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser premieres on Netflix September 7 and from the trailer alone it looks like this movie has everything we love: mistaken identities, marching bands, and Noah Centineo. And Shannon Purser! (Barb!) And while our first instinct is to gush over this 80s-esque teen comedy, the source material for this movie actually goes back further. Like, all the way back to 1897. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is a high school comedy adaptation of the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, a play about a cadet in the French army so ashamed of his large nose that he hides behind the identity of a handsome soldier as he professes his love for the beautiful Roxane. Sounds like catfishing, if you ask us. But the play ends happily. Sort of.

Today, we’re imagining what our favorite classic plays might look like if they received the Sierra Burgess treatment. We’re taking you on a theatrical journey – from Shakespeare to Moliere to Oscar Wilde – through the locker clad hallways of high school.



A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

A high school comedy adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream would definitely include the prom king and queen in the roles of Theseus and Hippolyta. (Theo and Hippa, perhaps? We’re still workshopping the names.) The Mechanicals are perfect for a high school play subplot and the fairies would be perfectly cast as a group of misfits hanging out under the bleachers. As for the main plot, who wouldn’t want to see an 80s-inspired high school comedy where two sets of lovers become so tangled up in societal expectations and magic that they can’t see straight?



The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the stuff high school comedies are made of. It has everything: mistaken identity, pining, and hijinks! A modern high school comedy adaptation would portray Julia as a non-binary character, rather than a woman dressing as a man to avoid harassment on a long journey. Speed and Launce will assume the roles of class clowns at Verona High School and Valentine and his buddy Proteus would easily slot into lovable jock roles. It’s a teen rom com that might even put To All the Boys We’ve Loved Before to shame. (We love you, Peter Kavinsky!)



Tartuffe by Molière

The subtitle of Tartuffe is The Imposter and if that doesn’t make you want to see a teen comedy adaptation of this play, we don’t know what will. Rather than setting it in the world of Catholic clergymen, our adaptation would center on a Catholic High School and the “They’re dating who?” comedy that the original play is so ripe with. (Only in Molière’s original, the relationships are marriage and engagement rather than our own imagined dating drama.) All the names would be changed, of course. We wouldn’t believe an American high school full of Orgons and Valères. (And Tartuffes!) But we cannot wait to employ the Deus Ex Machina plot device in those high school hallways.



The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest is a play about double lives and the comedy that ensues. Jack Worthing lives his life as though he’s two completely different people. In the country, he assumes the role of Jack – a responsible citizen, the guardian of a young ward, and the lover of the beautiful Gwendolin Fairfax. But in the city, he goes by the moniker “Ernest” – drinking and philandering and living a completely different life. The high school comedy version of Earnest would center on a young woman who lives a double life. By day she’s an unassuming A student named Jackie. But on Instagram, she’s Emma – a social media influencer and all around badass. We can’t wait to see what happens when the other shoe drops.



Noises Off by Michael Frayn

Okay, so Noises Off isn’t nearly as old as the other plays we’ve explored here, but we couldn’t resist taking that play for a spin in the high school comedy context. Picture this: a backstage comedy about a high school play gone horribly, hilariously wrong. Dotty is the high school’s resident diva; she always lands the lead and will never let you forget it. Garry is Dotty’s boyfriend, a hapless high schooler who only got the role because of who he’s dating and his Noah Centineo-level good looks. Poppy is a techie who’s surprisingly devoid of stage fright. And all those doors just won’t stop slamming. There’s the opportunity to make this a double adaptation by choosing a fun play for the troupe to perform – like when Riverdale did that Carrie the Musical episode.