Given Circumstances  by Jordana Kagan

2017 Recipient of the Sherwood Collins Playwriting Contest by the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild.


With their single mother suddenly gone, 16-year-old Jacob struggles to take care of his two younger sisters and keep them safe from the system that could ultimately separate them. Charlotte is still grieving and remains silent, and Claire is too young to fully comprehend the weight of their situation. Jacob gradually crumbles under the pressure of his position until he has driven himself completely insane, and the three siblings must face their inescapable fate.


Cast Requirements

  • JACOB: 16. He slowly deteriorates as he takes on the parental role in his family.

  • CHARLOTTE: 13. Intelligent and expressive but does not speak for the majority of the play (except in flashbacks.)

  • CLAIRE: 8. Naive and mostly oblivious to conflict. Gives Jacob hope.

  • DCF WOMAN: An Officer from the Department of Children and Families. Only appears at the end of the play. Non-speaking role.


The play takes place in a small, rundown house in Roslindale, MA. There is one door upstage center that is not opened until the last moment. Every other scene is a flashback, each one chronologically leading up to real time.  

ISBN #1-60513-276-4; JAC #2017-0004


$30/performance royalty

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Read an Excerpt

CLAIRE: So, did you talk to them?

JACOB: Yeah. There's no way. They wanted all this information...

CLAIRE: So? Charlie needs it, that’s what you said.

JACOB: I know she needs it but... Do you know why we don't go to school?

CLAIRE: We do too go to school. You're our teacher.

JACOB: Do you know why we never went back to school with everyone else? With your old friends. With Sarah and Katie and Ben? (Claire shakes her head no.) We don’t have a legal guardian. That means we’re orphans. That means we don’t belong to anybody.

CLAIRE: I know what an orphan is. I watched Annie with Katie and she knew all about it. I'm not stupid.

JACOB: I'm not trying to call you stupid. I'm just trying to explain that if we went to regular school or if Charlie went to therapy, they would find out.

CLAIRE: Who's they?

JACOB: I’m just trying to keep us together, okay? Mom wants that and that means I’m gonna do whatever it takes.

CLAIRE: Oh. I want Charlie to get better.

JACOB: I do, too.

(They continue to sit and watch the bird.)

JACOB: Why don’t you go inside and get started on breakfast.

CLAIRE: Okay. (Turns to go) OH but-

JACOB: I’ll come and help you crack the eggs in a minute, okay?

CLAIRE: (Smiling uncontrollably and lets out a nervous giggle) Okay!


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