The Northwestern student group Purple Crayon Players, which produces Theater for Young Audiences, chooses a quote each year to inspire their work.
That of this year is that of the cellist Pablo Casals: “You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children. The quote reflects the group’s mission to create thoughtful plays and events that make children feel seen.
Communications junior Mark Berry, production manager for Purple Crayon Players, described putting on TYA plays for kids as a joyful experience.
“You hear their laughter,” Berry said. “You see them so excited to take pictures with the cast, to have their posters signed. The experience of doing TYA is absolutely amazing.
Purple Crayon Players have a show scheduled for February 18-19 at the Shanley Pavilion. Information about the play is limited as show rights have not been finalized.
However, Berry provided some insight, saying the piece would be “dreamy”, “astronomical” and “exploratory”.
In the spring, Purple Crayon Players will host their 14th annual PLAYground Festival, a weekend-long event from April 30 to May 1. Scheduled to take place in performance hall 2122, the festival will consist of workshops, feedback sessions and three new plays. .
Over the fall, dozens of professional playwrights from across the country submitted scripts for the PLAYground festival. The Purple Crayon Players board selected “Heart Strings”, “The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks”, and “The Dummy Class”. Each will be led by an NU student.
“The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks” follows a group of young immigrant friends as they watch their neighborhood and a beloved mural undergo gentrification.
Communications junior Arella Flur, producer of the PLAYground festival, described how the characters respond to change creatively.
“(As their home) is demolished by the American businesses coming in, they reflect on what art and music in their community means to them,” Flur said.
“Heart Strings” explores the relationship of two non-biological adopted sisters in Hawaii who live with their grandparents. The name of the piece comes from the Hawaiian tradition of playing hand games with strings.
During PLAYground’s script reading process, “Heart Strings” was assigned to first-year communications student Kailey Morand, an outreach assistant for Purple Crayon Players. The family theme made him cry from the start.
“It’s a really beautiful story of finding family, accepting your culture, and learning that blood doesn’t necessarily dictate who you love,” Morand said. “It really had an impact on me.”
“The Dummy Class” tells the story of a special education class that puts on a talent show so that the school turns out to be more than “the dummy class”. With the play’s cast of neurodiverse characters, Morand and the Outreach Chair seek input from the community and professionals to ensure “The Dummy Class” portrays the cast authentically.
“What’s really misunderstood about TYA is that it doesn’t have to be simple, or just for very young children,” Morand said. “Children can understand deeper problems than most people know.”
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