Why Do You Write for Young Audiences (Part Two of Three)

February 26, 2014

We asked our authors the question, "Why do you write for young audiences?"  Below are four of the replies...

Joanne Greene offers this story:

Sheer unadulterated panic!  After teaching high school drama for twenty-three years, I was talked into taking the drama position at an elementary school after I retired.  The school was starting an arts infusion program.  I taught every child in the school (K-5).  Just three hours a day.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, it turned out that after the drama games, improvisations, and general stage craft, I had created a monster.  Every class of twenty-five wanted to do a play that had lines for everyone.  I started with having them improvise "freeze frame" scenes and then having each group write its scene down. Then we performed them as a scripted play.  This was great for the older students.  I started writing fractured fairy tales for the younger ones.  Soon I was on a roll!  One particular class had a problem with bullying, so I wrote a play about that.  It almost wrote itself!  All I had to do was write down what I'd observed.  When that class read it through there was a profound silence.  They recognized their own behavior.  When Christmas rolled around the other arts infusion teachers looked to me to find a play that would include the entire school, so I wrote one.  The dance teacher choreographed it.  The music teacher incorporated her chorus into the play and accompanied the songs I'd written.  The art teacher had her classes make decorations for the theater.  Then at the insistence of a former student, Eddie Zipperer, who is a playwright, I sent one play to YouthPLAYS. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lois Wickstrom
shares with us:

The stories I write for young audiences just occur to me.  So do the ones I write for adults.  I don't sit down and think: today I'd like to write for young audiences.  Ideas just pop into my head.   I don't always know the age of the audience until it's done.

Christian Kiley also reveals:

I don't.  This is slightly shocking to some people because my plays are almost entirely produced in high schools and junior highs.  I try to write exciting plays with relevant themes.  I want directors, actors, and audiences to get excited about my plays and the process involved with producing or being a part of them.  I think the first step in doing this is to write the play without a filter or category attached to it.  "Do you write for adults?" This question will come up from time to time.  At family gatherings some uncle or other might ask something like, "Don't you want to have one of your plays on Broadway?"  And I might retort back with, "You mean like Cats, Uncle Lou?"  I don't really have an Uncle Lou and I don't consciously start writing a play with the thought, "Oh, this will be a wonderful comedy for nine-year-olds."   My oldest daughter is nine and I would never attempt such a daunting task anyway.  She would criticize me into dust and a few odd adjectives.  And this is one of the most exciting things about writing plays (for any audience).  I get to give them everything I have in the arsenal and cupboard and skull.  I don't hold back and hopefully people love it. 

Kitty Dubin tells us:

I like to write for young audiences because adolescents tend to believe that no one else is experiencing what they are.  That they are alone in feeling what they are feeling.  By writing plays about young people, my goal is to present true-to-life characters that adolescents can relate to
which will hopefully make them feel less isolated and more validated.

Big thank yous to Joanne, Lois, Christian, and Kitty for sharing their reflections.  Please also browse the YouthPLAYS blog for Parts One and Three of this series responding to the question, "Why do you write for young audiences?"

Happy writing, everyone!

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Jonathan Dorf
March 4, 2014
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March 4, 2014
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