Charlotte Chorpenning

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Charlotte B. Chorpenning (1873–1955) was a children's playwright. When she was 60 years old, after her husband died, she began writing plays for children.[1] She was also the artistic director of the children's theatre at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, and remains the most produced playwright in Goodman history.[2] She adapted many famous fairy and folktales. She believed that children would come to see plays about characters they knew already. She also strongly believed that plays should not talk down to children, and that children should be able to identify with the lead.[3] Chorpenning described her writing and directing process in her book, Twenty-One Years With Children's Theatre, published in 1954.

Chorpenning studied at Radcliffe College.[4] From about 1915-1919 she was a playwright in residence in Winona, Minnesota organizations.[5]

Chorpenning wrote adaptations of many stories and many of these plays remain in print. One play in particular is out of print: an adaptation of Helen Bannerman's Little Black Sambo and, according to Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson, aside from some unflattering stereotypical names and the same confusion Bannerman had with regard to the difference between India and Africa, the play is a non-offensive version of the story.[6]

Chorpenning died on January 7, 1955, at her home in Warwick, NY. The obituary published in the Educational Theatre Journal stated "The American theatre is indebted to her for her skill as a playwright, her ability as a teacher, her strength as a leader, and her humanity as a friend."[7]

The American Alliance for Theatre and Education awards the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Award for the body of work of a children's playwright.[8] Award recipients include Doug Cooney (2010), Barry Kornhauser (2009), James DeVita (2007), and Aurand Harris (1985 and 1967).

Chorpenning's Plays[edit]

Published by Anchorage Press Plays[edit]


The Elves and the Shoemaker


The Indian Captive

Jack and the Beanstalk

Little Red Riding Hood

Robinson Crusoe


The Sleeping Beauty

Published by Classic Youth Plays[edit]

A Letter to Santa Claus

Lincoln's Secret Messenger

Published by Dramatic Publishing[edit]

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Alice in Wonderland

Hansel and Gretel

The Magic Horn

Many Moons, based on the illustrated book of the same name written by James Thurber

Rip Van Winkle

Published by Samuel French, Inc.[edit]

The Emperor's New Clothes

Tom Sawyer's Treasure Hunt

Out of Print[edit]

Little Black Sambo


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2010-11-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Chorpenning, Charlotte B. "Twenty-One Years With Children's Theatre." Louisville, KY: Children's Theatre Press, 1954.
  4. ^ "Charlotte B. Chorpenning." in "The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales." Jack Zipes, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  5. ^ "Charlotte B. Chorpenning." in "The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales." Jack Zipes, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  6. ^ Van Der Horn-Gibson, Jodi. "Dismantling Americana: Sambo, Shirley GRaham, and African Nationalism." The Journal of American Popular Culture 7:1 (Spring 2008). Available online at [1]
  7. ^ "Chorpenning, Charlotte (-1955)." Educational Theatre Journal. 7:2 (May, 1955), 190.
  8. ^