Arts Features & Reviews

Why Do Theaters Dumb Down TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences)?

“We want to do children’s theater that doesn’t suck.”

That was Debbie Devine and Jay McAdam’s answer when I asked how 24th ST Theatre’s shows were different from their local competition. I laughed and understood. I was just starting as their marketing director and not a parent myself, but I certainly knew the horror stories of wide-eyed “children’s theater” talking down to their audiences.

And so I set about convincing progressive Los Angeles parents that a show about death, or one with a scene about getting your period, or a one-woman King Lear, were exactly the shows they should bring their kids to see.

Read more on The Clyde Fitch Report.

This is the first column in a year-long series investigating Theatre for Young Audiences. Click the Talking TYA tag for more.

Hard Fantasy vs Soft Fantasy for Children

Patrick Rothfuss profile

Patrick Rothfuss image was taken from this interview.

In Talks at Google with Patrick Rothfuss, he answers a question dear to my heart. I usually discuss it in relation to children’s theatre, but it holds. They’re smarter than you think.

Audience Question: How hard is it to make hard fantasy versus soft fantasy for children?

Rothfuss: There’s an unfortunate tendency among people in general to say, oh, I’ll just write a fantasy novel because you can just make stuff up. And that’s wrong, because that’s not – you can just do a bunch of stuff and magic will make it make sense. You can, but that’s not good writing, it’s not good storytelling, it’s not good craft.

In my opinion, similarly, people, sometimes, in the genre, are like, well, boy, I wish I could write YA because then kids don’t know what a plot hole is, they don’t care about consistent characterization, they’re not gonna call me on the million dragons ecology problem that I’ve created, this is not a sustainable eco-structure. But that, in my opinion, is a really egregious cop-out. Because in the same way that food that we feed our children should be actually held to a higher standard than the food you give to an adult, because an adult can say, blech, this is awful, or they can read the label and go, oh, this has terrible things in it and it’s going to make me sick and give me cancer. A kid can’t. 

And so you owe it to kids to actually put more work into this because it’s harder to write short. It’s harder to write simply [sic]. It’s harder to do a lot of these things, and it’s harder to write cohesive, coherent, internally coherent fantasy. And you shouldn’t go to YA thinking, oh, my, this will be way easier. I can just bang out 30,000 words and then go play World of Warcraft.

No.

I do not approve.

I know that it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for it. That’s my philosophy.”

Two Articles I Wrote on Art as a Parent

I guess being a parent really does affect how I view art. Yesterday two articles I wrote dropped on different publications, Better Lemons and Dwarf+Giant, a blog of The Last Bookstore LA. I didn’t realize until I shared them to Facebook that both show how I view art differently since becoming a parent.

One is how The Cat in the Hat reads like a manual for child molesters. I thought I’d get more pushback on this story, but so far all comments except one appreciate my argument for removing that book from your collection. Thanks to Dwarf+Giant for publishing this one!

The other is the first in a series, What Theaters Need to Know: Courting Families on Better Lemons, a relaunched Los Angeles arts website. Here I detail how small changes and larger ones can go a long way towards making families feel welcome at your programming. Until you’ve had to change your child’s diaper on a nasty restroom floor while other audience members bang on the door during intermission, you really haven’t lived as a parent.

Stay tuned for some more interesting articles from me……

YA Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I’m happy to announce that I’m now reviewing books for Dwarf+Giant, A Blog of The Last Bookstore. My focus is on fairy tales, folk tales and mythology – classics and re-tellings. Follow my reading progress on Goodreads.

This review was originally published on October 14, 2016.

Dorothy Must Die isn’t so much a retelling of The Wizard of Oz as a continuation, an elaboration of Oz after Dorothy became a ruthless dictator and turned her companions into henchmen worthy of The Godfather. Amy is the protagonist, swept into a tornado after her alcoholic mother goes to a tornado drinking party and leaves her to fend for herself. Landing her trailer in Oz, she is assumed to be their saviour, her orders being simple: Dorothy Must Die.

I had a hard time getting into Amy, the protagonist. At first I thought it was because we had so little in common (trailer park vs upper middle class, alcoholic mother vs stable nuclear family); then I realized that I felt too close to her experiences being bullied at school. It hurt too much for me to bear with relating to her. In a lot of ways I wish I reacted to bullying more like Amy did.

Once we’re into the Oz part of the story, I flew through Amy’s journey. Struggling with who to believe and having a real stake in who is good vs who is evil is a pretty great hook. No icon of Oz is left standing here, and you get the feeling there is real danger. I didn’t read the summary to the second book, so to me, it was possible that Amy could have been killed before this book was done. That was a pretty great feeling to have as a reader, that anything was really possible and maybe this time, our heroine wouldn’t overcome her training and doubts.

I do wish there was a little more dimension to Dorothy, but I suppose that’s how the original villain (Wicked Witch of the West) is portrayed in the film…and maybe I’ll find the answer I seek in Paige’s prequels.

Marketing Fails & Immersive Ethics

A few weeks ago, I received an ominous text in the middle of the night:

catharsis-text

Needless to say, I was freaked out. Read the full story on No Proscenium to hear how an immersive marketing scheme backfired big time.

Then head on over to Story Forward, a fantastic podcast I just discovered. Noah J. Nelson of No Pro is on a panel discussing the ethics of immersive experiences. Whether you approach it as an audience member or creator, this is a great listen.

If you’re interested in knowing about immersive productions, escape rooms, etc in your area, here’s where to find NoPro. There’s an expansion to other cities in the works:

Email: no_proscenium@outlook.com (send announcements & tips)
Twitter: @noproscenium (look for between issue updates) 
Facebook: No Proscenium Page (Issue Archives for All Regions)
Medium: The No Proscenium Collection (Reviews and Essays)
Podcast: iTunes and RSS 
Patreon: Support the Newsletter and Podcast
New subscriber sign-up: noproscenium.com

Cover Reveal for new YA Fantasy, THE MEDDLERS OF MOONSHINE

 

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00003]

Cover art by Cary Vandever

I got a little peek at the cover for a new YA Fantasy, The Meddlers of Moonshine by A.E. Decker. It’s the second in the Moonlight Mayhem series.

I love the synopsis (below) and description of the series by another author, Susan Sullivan:

“I’d say it’s like Shrek meets The Wizard of Oz if Dorothy were Wednesday Addams and Toto a talking cat with bat wings.”

Sounds very cool. Fairy tale mashups are an obsession of mine and after reading some more of Decker’s work, it sounds like she’s a real find for me! In fact, I would have posted this sooner but I was gobbling up her other stories.

The Meddlers of Moonshine will be available on October 25. Until then, check out the ebook for the first in this series, The Falling of the Moon, available for $0.99 for a limited time.

Here’s the summary:

Something is rotten in the town of Widget, and Rags-n-Bones knows it’s all his fault.

 

Ever since he snitched that avocado from Miss Ascot’s pack, things have been going wrong. Armed with a handful of memories he never realized he had, Rags-n-Bones searches for a way to put right whatever he did to Widget in the past. If only he knew what it was! Unfortunately, the only person who seems to have answers is a half-mad youth that only Rags can see.

Widget is also suffering from a ghost infestation that has the townsfolk almost as spooked of outsiders as they are of actual spooks. While Rags-n-Bones seeks answers in the past, Ascot offers the town leaders her service as an exorcist, only to be handed an ultimatum: banish the ghosts or be banished herself!

Who’s meddling with Widget? To catch the culprit, Ascot and Rags-n-Bones must match wits with a shifty sorcerer, a prissy ex-governess, and a troublingly attractive captain before the town consigns itself to the graveyard of history.

Pre-order:

Ebook
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
Kobo
World Weaver Press online store

Trade Paperback
World Weaver Press online

 

Decker Author Photo

More about Decker at Words Meet World. Also, don’t you just love her for her profile picture alone? I do.

A. E. Decker hails from Pennsylvania. A former doll-maker and ESL tutor, she earned a master’s degree in history, where she developed a love of turning old stories upside-down to see what fell out of them. This led in turn to the writing of her YA novel, The Falling of the Moon. A graduate of Odyssey 2011, her short fiction has appeared in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless SkiesFireside Magazine, and in World Weaver Press’s own Specter Spectacular. Like all writers, she is owned by three cats. Come visit her, her cats, and her fur Daleks at wordsmeetworld.com or@MoonfallMayhem.

 

My 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival Picks

I’ve enjoyed attending the Hollywood Fringe Festival since it started, and always searched for more ways to let audiences in on the fun. Now living in a new city, I understand even more how it’s hard to just jump into a Fringe Festival, even if you’re really into it.

These are the shows that I would put on my #HFF16 Dance Card during this first week of previews and through opening, if I were in town. Click the title to find the show on the Fringe website.

Enjoy!

Cindy Marie Jenkins, Founder & Consultant of See It or Skip It LA

From Reputation

Neva  “People are dying of hunger in the streets and you want to put on a play?” I saw this NEVAplay (different production) at CalArts REDCAT in 2011 and was thrilled to see Diana Wyenn directing it now.

Patriot Act is written and performed by Michael Schlitt, whose show Jesus Ride I adored a few years ago at Fringe. He is incredibly sharp, funny and theatrical. I would not miss this if I were in town.

Thug Tunnel by Robot Teammate and the Accidental Party. They had a great show last year and this one doesn’t look like it will disappoint: In the not-so-distant-future, greed, pollution, and The Ancient Fire of Death and Despair have made Earth’s surface uninhabitable, forcing the human race to survive underground in a criminal society known as THUG TUNNEL.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with an all female cast who are incredibly funny.

Simon Coronel: Alien of Extraordinary Ability. That’s how he’s designated by the U.S. Department of Immigration. An Australian Illusionist who often frequents the Hollywood Fringe, Simon always entertains. Sometimes, he throws his knowledge of Mandarin in there, too.

All the Best Killers are Librarians. I mean, the title. Then I learn it is from Serial Killers, the late night serial competition at Sacred Fools, and I’m hooked.

Bull and Smoke are both by Rogue Machine, who never seem to disappoint with new plays.

 

Just Because I Dig This Kind of Thing

Troy Before I knew it was a Fountain Theatre production (looks like part of a development series), this is a rare instance of the play description gripping me. (It should be noted that I am a Greek geek to the extreme.)

Photojournalist and war correspondent, Arthur Hess, has made his living taking photos of some of the world’s most violent places. But when his eldest daughter is publicly murdered, it is the photo he takes of her corpse that threatens to destroy both his family and his name. Inspired by The Oresteia, TROY is a play about the perplexity of grief in a war that is happening both far away and in our living rooms.  

Fairy Tales Against Humanity Like children’s theatre gone horribly wrong, “Fairy Tales Against Humanity” is a new half-scripted/half-improvised show. This is one of those big Fringe #ChanceIt shows. It could be horrendous but it could be hilarious. I’d probably #DrinkBeforeIt.

Here There Be Dragons: A Journey from Fear to Freedom with Ukrainian Dog and Shredded Cheesedid you read that title? Taking chances on shows like this are why Fringe Festivals exist, in my opinion.

50 Shades of Shakespeare – Twelfth Night with four actors. It’s been done, but you, the audience, picks who plays who. I’d easily give this show 45 minutes of my life. Learn More at www.lanewcourttheatre.com

Keep up w/ See It or Skip It LA Correspondents’ Picks here

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