Ellen Harvey Showell

Selected Works

Children's Fiction: Ghost Stories and Mysteries
A realistic tale set in Appalachian hill country. 12-year old Willy and his sister dare to befriend a wild child of the woods--even though she is said to have drowned years ago. They take separate paths to discover the truth about her--just in time to prevent another tragedy. An Authors' Guild Backinprint edition.
History of American Women In Science: Inventors
True to the author's bent, this non-fiction book starts with an original fairy tale. Otherwise, it presents real stories of fascinating women inventors from colonial days to outstanding scientists of present time. Co-authored with Fred M.B. Amram. Ideal for homeschoolers.
Musical Plays for Children to Perform
A young girl who loves to dance finds a fiddle-playing boy on magical Blue Mountain. An Appalachian fairy tale with traditional and original songs. Based on the novel by the same name.
A musical play on words, ideal for elementary or middle school productions. Six syllables become a word that has to find its meaning -- a hilarious exploration of language. Fun, jazzy songs and dances. Could complement a poetry or creative writing unit.
Death Penalty
In this one-act play described as "Powerful," "Deeply moving,", Men and women with opposite feelings about the death penalty confront condemned persons and each other--and a medical technician confronts his own soul. "It makes you think." Especially suitable for death penalty focus groups. Feel free to downloadthe script.

Suggested uses

* The play is intended to be given by an entire class of fifth or sixth graders for another class or for an assembly. It is ideal for a collaborative effort between classroom, music and drama teachers. It could be done by as few as 18 children, and as many as 30. Children in the audience also participate.

The play can be used to show how one aspect of the arts enhances another.

* For music teachers to illustrate the expressiveness of instruments

* For a drama class to help teach character depiction, movement and comedy with plenty of opportunity for improvisation.


Throughout the play, musical instruments have little solos to help announce certain characters. The NARRATORS come on stage to a theme piece that is heard at different times throughout the play. A musical score is provided with the script.

The production by Mrs. Godfrey's Fifth Grade Class at Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, used the following instruments:

Soprano xylophone
Alto xylophone
Bass xylophone



The play is based on a short story written by the author.
TWID, DEL, AX, A, DAF, FY are six syllables who dance, sing and play together, spelling TWIDDELAXADAFFY--a meaningless word. When they playfully turn the letter U upside down and it decides stay that way, the whole English language is plunged into confusion. Important, interesting and bad words can't be said, nor can those beginning with Q.

TWIDDELAXADAFFY'S idea of replacing the thoughtless letter with a new one, designed by children in the audience, convinces U to straighten up and act right or be kicked out of the alphabet.

In the second act, AUTHORITY and other leaders of the language, HOPE, PEACE, REASON and WISDOM try to figure out what, if anything, TWIDDELAXADAFFY means. CURIOUS plays a jester role. A solution is finally found by WISDOM -- to give the word to the children of the world to do with as they please.

The play is primarily an opportunity for children to enjoy self-abandonment by becoming characters -- a chance to whoop and holler and dance and sing -- all as part of a joint production, for the entertainment of others. It is a joyous examination of words, of meaning and of spelling. The characters who embody such concepts as HOPE and AUTHORITY are all too human --adding more giggles as the play unfolds.


A stage is all that is needed. Whatever the imagination can conjure could be used as backdrop.


Narrator I
Narrator 2
The Syllables Spelling Twiddelaxadaffy:
Angry Words


Following are other thoughts from a critique by Carol Gully, former Artist in Residence at the Bethesda Academy for the Performing Arts, which produced plays for young people:

* Geared to sophisticated children who love language--who absolutely lust for language (and there are those who do.)

* Expresses the musicality of language

* tremendous potential for physicalization of letters, words, ideas, characters, etc., either abstract movement or formal choreography

Basically I think the playwright has written an inventive, very clever piece on language, words, personal relationships/​behavior, and their place in the universe. . . .I do strongly believe that it works best with her target audience: a highly-educated, literate, sensitive group of students. However, if the physical action were stressed and the "bawd comedy" emphasized, it might work like a Shakespeare piece and appeal to the "groundlings" as well as the more educated.