An American Breeze: A Whirlwind Theatrical Tour of American Literature

By Mondloch, Helen | The World and I, March 2009 | Go to article overview
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An American Breeze: A Whirlwind Theatrical Tour of American Literature

Mondloch, Helen, The World and I

Helen Mondloch teaches high school English in Fairfax County, Virginia. Her freelance articles have appeared in about a dozen publications, including The American Scholar, I Do for Brides, and a McGraw-Hill history text, Annual Editions. She is a longtime contributor to The World & I Online and currently writes the monthly teacher's guides. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband and two sons.

The following are excerpts from a reader's theater play designed especially for American literature survey courses and community theater programs: An American Breeze: A Whirlwind Theatrical Tour of American Literature, by Helen Mondloch.

The play provides a lively tour of American literature from colonial times to the present. The main storyteller is an American Breeze--"a timeless observer of the American experience." The Breeze presents writers from the various literary periods as they expound their works and the times in which they lived. The motley cast also includes commentators of contrasting character--a droll cynic, a sage optimist, and a rowdy chorus--elements that lend the play humor and perspective.

Offering vivid snapshots of the American literary scene from the Puritans to the Contemporaries, An American Breeze is entertaining and illuminating. It weaves history, horseplay, and the language of literature into the fabric of an unforgettable story.

In the classroom, Breeze is designed to stimulate student participation in a format that is highly adaptable: Classes can perform the six acts intermittently throughout the year, or as a single production at year's end. The book includes helpful study guides for each act.

"The epitome of what teen reader's theater should be--enlightening, funny, & clever, plus a perfect glimpse into the periods of American history via our literary figures & works across the centuries! Helen Mondloch has blown us right into each American literary/historical period with allusions to writers, works, philosophies, & events that will gust to life in this reader's theater tour de force!"--Deborah K. Hipes, Bureau of Education & Research

(To order copies of An American Breeze, go to and click on Readers Theater. Mention this article to receive a discount. Discounts are also available for orders of multiple copies.)

An American Breeze: A Whirlwind Theatrical Tour of American Literature A reader's theater play in six acts

Prelude: Voice of the Breeze

Act 1: A Colonial Breeze

Act 2: Winds of Reason

Act 3: Romantic Stirrings

Act 4: Transcendental Tempests

Act 5: A Rugged Cold Front: The Realists

Act 6: El Nino: Modernism and the Contemporary Age

Prelude and Act I:

Characters: (In order of appearance)

The Breeze--a timeless observer of the American experience

Commentator 1--A droll cynic

Commentator 2--An optimist

Chorus--Various voices of the American experience; a rowdy bunch (Played by students not assigned a role at any given time, chorus members recite their lines in unison and often sound like cheerleaders)

A Puritan

John Winthrop

Cotton Mather

Jonathan Edwards

Anne Bradstreet

John Smith

Olaudah Equiano

Prelude: Voice of the Breeze


I am the voice of an American breeze. You have never seen me, but I have stirred for untold ages. I've blown through every crack and crevice of the landscape--across prairie, mountain, city, and sea. Whispering, sometimes roaring, through season after season, I've watched a nation rise up from the wilderness.

Throughout my steady watch, I've brushed the cheek of every man and woman who ever tilled the soil, every soldier who marched into battle, and every babe swaddled in the American dream. I've touched gold diggers and trailblazers, both the modest and the proud, and those who yearned only to breathe free.

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