Ben Franklin & Baron Von Steuben vs.

The Paine County School Board

by Danielle Dresden

A high school instructor teaches that Baron von Steuben, the Revolutionary War hero, was gay… School Board members plot changes in district policies for personal as well as political reasons… And conflict erupts. Ben Franklin and Baron von Steuben are compelled to step in to set the record straight, so to speak, in this comedy about what happens when history speaks up for itself. And, by the way, Franklin and von Steuben are to be played by women in drag. 

  • Cast Size: 2M 4W
  • Running Time: 90+ minutes
  • Royalty Rate: $75 per performance

About the Playwright

Danielle Dresden, playwright, actor, arts administrator, and residency artist, is producing artistic director of TNW Ensemble Theater, which she co-founded in 1985 in Madison, Wisconsin. Dresden is the author of 38 plays performed across the United States and abroad. 

Playwrighting awards include 2010 Wisconsin Arts Board Literary Arts Fellowship, Honorable Mention/2016 National New Works of Merit Contest, Finalist 2015 Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Fellowship, 1999 Yukon Pacific New Play Award Finalist, and Council for Wisconsin Writers Drama Awards in 2001, 2003 and 2006. 

Fish Fry: Comedy, Opera, and a Secret Recipe, her most recent play, premiered in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2019, and played the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, WI in February 2020. Typhoid Mary, Patient Zero, and… the M Factor premiered in October 2017, with a performance at Edgewood College in March 2018. Her 2016 play, Ben Franklin & Baron von Steuben vs. the Paine County School Board, also opened in Madison and showcased at Arts Midwest. Her 2015 play Work the Act was featured in TAPIT/new works’ 30thanniversary season. Other recent productions include Convenience, a site-specific collaboration with Fresco Opera Theatre, performed in Madison, Wisconsin in August 2014, Source Code: Candide, at Horse Trade Theater Group’s #DRAFTSNYC in New York City in July 2014, and Now What, a one-act comedy about apocalyptic thinking (with zombies, of course!), developed in a touring exchange with New World Performance Lab in Akron, Ohio, in 2013. 

Take Care premiered at the UW-Marathon County and was performed at The Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska in 2012. In 2011, Bullying: The Musical premiered at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin. Help Wanted: The Search for Security, True Love or at Least a Decent Part-Time Job was performed in Madison and Stoughton, Wisconsin in 2010. From 2008-2014 Mangia, Mangia!, a play about Madison’s historic Greenbush neighborhood, played to capacity audiences in Wisconsin. Dresden toured to Canada in February 2008 with her play Garden Party, which opened in 2005 in Madison, later touring Wisconsin, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Tear Up the Front Page opened in 2006 and toured Wisconsin and Purdue University in 2008-2009. In 2003, One Wall Missing premiered in Madison, and Changing Faces was produced at the Playwright’s Forum, Looking Glass Theatre in New York City. A monologue from Athena, Live!, was published in Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays #2, Meriwether Publishing Ltd. Other plays include Without Pity, performed at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the AIDS Theater Festival in San Francisco, Soul Journey at the International Festival of Madness and Arts in Toronto, and Questionable Origins at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.   

Dresden has served as a featured artist at the Last Frontier Theater Festival since 2002 and worked as a professional actor in theater, radio and video. Examples include performing in her play, Source Code: Candide, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 2008 and Madison’s Overture Center in 2005, the Syncopated Syndromes tour to Door County, with talkbacks by Dr. Zorba Paster, and The Girls From Building B, performing in Ohio, northern Wisconsin, and twice touring to Miami Beach, Florida.  

She was the guest artist for the Blaine Quarnstrom Playwright Series at the University of Southern Mississippi in January 2016. She judged the Marcia Legere Student Play Festival at UW-Madison from 2013-2018, taught playwriting at the UW-Marathon County in 2009 and 2007, and conducted a National Performance Network residency at Alverno College. A Kennedy Center-trained teaching artist with Madison’s Overture Center, she co-developed a model residency combining creative writing and performance which was presented for the Georgia Association on Young Children. She has served as a panelist for the Wisconsin Arts Board and Dane Arts, and is a member of the Barrymore Theatre Board of Directors in Madison, Wisconsin and the Network of Ensemble Theaters. She is a Wisconsin Ambassador for the Dramatists Guild and serves on the Advisory Board for the Bolz Center for Arts Administration.

Dresden received BAs in Journalism and Comparative Literature and a Masters in Business in Arts Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A former reporter, her arts administration experience includes work as the acting editor for the Association for Performing Arts Presenters, and a three-year stint as a development director in community radio. She was a contributing writer for DramaBiz Magazine.

Average Rating: 5.0 out of 5 (1 votes)
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Donald Baker

Simultaneously Serious & Comedic

Ultra-conservative members of the school board of Paine County plan to turn the history curriculum into propaganda to indoctrinate students with their point of view. Two founding fathers, observing from the great beyond, decide to meddle in earthly affairs to prevent that. The subject is serious and timely but the presentation is comedic with even a little Gilbert and Sullivan thrown in. Very highly recommended.

9 months ago

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