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Entries in USA (23)


Interview with US playwright Willy Conley

Write Local. Play Global. is delighted that playwright Willy Conley was able to take some time away from his playwriting, as well as his teaching at Gallaudet University (the world's only liberal arts school for Deaf and hard of hearing students) to answer a few questions about his work.

WLPG: Was there something in particular that motivated you to start writing for young audiences?
I believe the seeds of my motivation to write spawned from my first professional job in the theatre as an actor with a touring educational outreach theatre troupe called “Sunshine Too!".  This group was formed by the performing arts department of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at R.I.T. in Rochester, NY.  We were a company of three Deaf and three hearing actors who did it all – write, act, direct, design, build, set up, strike, launder, and drive.  Under the brilliant guidance of renowned clown-mime-theatre artist Doug Berky, an ensemble member, we created “Arlecchino’s Dream" a commedia del arte piece.  It was done in American Sign Language and spoken English, and turned out to be a hit with young Deaf and hearing audiences nationwide.  Having been inspired by this experience, I began writing seriously in journals in the van, in restaurants, and motels.

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'Baby Maybe' (Barry Kornhauser, USA)

Theater for babies?  Really?  When I first learned of this sub-genre of the TYA field, I responded with the same healthy skepticism I suspect is shared by many theater practitioners, even those, like me, devoted to working for children. That creating plays for preschoolers has been a highly regarded practice across the globe for several decades now seemed as incomprehensible as baby-talk

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'Theater of the Young, For the Young' (Steven Dietz, USA)

Let’s you and I build the perfect audience for our new play.  While we may differ on a few details, I’ll bet that our ideal audience would share some of these traits:

They would be Eager—they’d rush to their seats, they’d want to sit up close, they would not want to leave when it was over.

They would be Engaged—leaning forward, hungry for action and image and story and surprise. They would not sit with their arms folded across their chests.

They would be Open—open to experimentation, to newness, to things they have never seen before in a play.

They would be Demanding—they’d bust us when our play got boring or maudlin or vague or preachy or pretentious.

They would be Vocal—they’d hoot at the good jokes and gasp at the surprising stuff. They’d cheer when it was over, and then ask the hardest and truest questions imaginable.

And they would be Committed—they’d likely want to come back the next day and see the play again.

There’s a name for this ideal audience. They are called kids. If only we got to write for them. How amazing that would be.

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'Writing for Children: Getting past the Gatekeepers' (Cheryl L. West, USA)

"Is it not the job of any playwright writing for children or adults or both to write was is authentic, true, and makes for a compelling dramatic story. Is it not our mandate to write stories that potentially and hopefully ignite passion and ultimately discussion, particularly with our children? Children, I believe, are available and more than ready for lively discussion and engagement. Perhaps it’s us well meaning gatekeepers who, dare I say, create the barriers."

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'At Play in the Fields of TYA' (Elissa Adams, USA)

When I arrived, in 1998, to work at Children’s Theatre Company, the largest children’s theater in the United States, I knew very little about the field of Theater for Young Audiences. I arrived, a nurturer of playwrights and developer of new work, with a head and heart full of playwrights whose work I loved and a hope that, by aligning myself with a large, regional theater helmed by an Artistic Director with a proven track record of producing new plays, I could get the work of the writers I loved produced. This has turned out to be true. In the fifteen years I have been Director of New Play Development, Children’s Theatre Company has commissioned and produced over thirty-five new plays by writers including Nilo Cruz, Kia Corthron, Lisa D’Amour, Melissa James Gibson, Jeffrey Hatcher, Naomi Iizuka, Will Power and Taylor Mac. I have been able to reach out to writers and theater makers whose work thrills me, put money in their pockets and their plays up in gloriously large-scale, professional productions.

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