For high school drama productions of Shakespeare, the facility sponsor must consider a number of factors. First, the cast of characters the play should be balanced as much as possible between male and female roles. Shakespeare wrote some great roles for women; Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra to name just two, but some of his plays are mostly male driven, like “Julius Caesar” and “Henry V”.
Next, consider the potential casting pool. Don’t try and pull off “Richard III” unless you have an actor that can manage that role. Or even “Romeo and Juliet” unless you have a couple that could manage those roles.
Last, consider “updating” the play. Recently movies that have “modernized” the Bard of Avon include “Romeo and Juliet”, “Richard III”, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” and “Coriolanus” not to mention the BBC “Shakespeare Retold” series. Updating the plays setting and context is something that should be considered to make it more relevant to today (without messing with the excellent language).
“Romeo and Juliet” is considered the most accessible of Shakespeare’s plays to high school students and typically it is the first Shakespeare production which introduces students to the Bard’s works. The themes of love and angst are considered accessible to the age group. Also the modernized version is available through the recent movie.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Shakespeare’s more accessible comedies for a teenager, with the rumor mill aspect and well as the Dogberry’s butchered speeches to keep everyone entertained. Fairly easy to produce with a small cast of only eight major roles and 11 smaller ones.
“King Lear” is another play that teenager could easily understand; all about parental approval and sibling rivalry. Also the parts of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia offer some prime female roles. Also with only 15 speaking roles the cast is small enough to manage.
“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is considered Shakespeare’s first play and has a very small cast and could easily be staged in a small theater. Also with some of the smaller roles a female actress could easily be cast to help balance the cast. Also, the play could be updated to the twentieth century.
“Love’s Labor’s Lost” has a well-balanced cast between male and female roles. The theme of unrequited and lost love should be well received by a high school cast and audience. Also, this play was recently “modernized” in a movie which could provide a model for a high school production.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” also has a well balanced cast for male and female actors, but the cast is large and that could make it difficult to stage. But otherwise this play would be excellent for a high school production.
In general the Histories are best avoided because of the largely male cast and also the accessibly of plays about war and power politics might be thematically difficult for a teenage cast. Otherwise many of the Bard’s comedies, tragedies and “problem” plays are suitable for a high school production.