You can count on your fingers the number of New York theatres doing plays and musicals for children (TaDa!, Theatreworks USA, ummmmmm...), which is precisely why playwright/composer Frumi Cohen writes musicals for young people. Her latest, A Show Of Hands, runs at the 13th Street Repertory Company theatre through Jan. 31, 1997.
Hands studies a group of young people thrown into a room while waiting to engage in a piano competition. They bond, they fight, they sing. "Songs about frustration. Parental interference. Dreams. Sibling rivalry. You name it. Songs you can hum," reads the press release.
Calling herself a "youth playwright," Frumi Cohen has been frustrated with the feeling that people who write plays and musicals for youngsters get less respect than their peers who write for a mainstream, grown audience. "A youth playwright writes because he or she is moved by kids," Cohen has noted. "We wish to impart to kids our excitement, respect and love for good theatre. We want them to have their very own theatre classics."
Cohen received a degree in Music Education from Temple University and has taught at the progressive Quaker institution, the Plymouth Meeting Friends School. Strongly influenced by musicals of the late 1960's and early 70's, Cohen had her world rocked by Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: "I never experienced anything like that show, then or since."
Tired of running purely musical programs for her school, Cohen started writing her own musicals, which got both students and audiences more involved in the process of making theatre. Early pieces were adaptations of The Wind In The Willows and The Secret Garden. Her 1993 musical, Frankenteen, took third place in the Columbia Entertainment Company Playwriting Competition. A Show Of Hands was staged twice in Philadelphia and is making its New York premiere at the 13th Street Repertory. "My goal," Cohen stated, "is to help young people cultivate tastes and make intelligent, sophisticated choices about live theatre. A Show Of Hands features material about kids whose parents force their dreams on them. The characters have their OWN dreams -- and during the play, they have a chance to express what they are." Heading a cast of 16 are Jan Gelberman, Steven Robertson, Cameron MacKenzie and Eve Monique. For tickets and information on A Show Of Hands, which is directed by Gerald van Heerden and choreographed by Liz Rossi, call (212) 675-6677.
-- By David Lefkowitz