From David Mamet, whose Frog Prince is currently being revived Off Broadway, to Wendy Wasserstein, who wrote a children's book about a young girl's first trip to the theatre, many of America's leading playwrights are also penning plays for young audiences. Patrons of NYC's TADA! and the sadly dormant Young Playwrights Festival know the value of theatre for kids, as does Seattle Children's Theatre. SCT has just announced its 1997-98 season schedule, which features world premieres by nationally produced playwrights Steven Dietz and OyamO, Dutch puppet theatre, and an adaptation of Shakespeare.
The West Coast's largest professional theatre for family audiences, Seattle Children's Theatre recently received a JFK Center/American Express Company Fund For New American Plays Award, helping them fund the season's first offering, Dietz's Still Life With Iris. Dietz, the author of God's Country, Dracula and the extraordinary Lonely Planet, has worked with magician Steffan Soule on this piece, about a girl robbed of her past and the magical journey she undertakes to recover it. Along the way she meets Leaf Counters, Star Hangers, Lightning Bolters and Flower Painters. Running Sept. 19-Nov. 2, Still Life With Iris is staged by SCT artistic director, Linda Hartzell.
Stellaluna, a play with music, follows Iris, Oct. 17-Jan. 18, 1998. Onny Husink and Saskia Janse, of Speeltheater Holland puppet theatre, have adapted Janell Cannon's tale of a little bird separated from her Mama Bird. Speeltheater Holland's resident composer, Guus Ponsioen, will create an original score for the piece, which will be preceded by a curtain-raiser: A Day At The Beach, a performance piece by Billy Seago and Todd Jefferson Moore, directed by Linda Hartzell.
Ah, is there anyone who doesn't love dancing penguins? Well, if there are, don't bring them to Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin's musical adaptation of Richard & Florence Atwater's Mr. Popper's Penguins, running Nov. 21-Jan. 25, 1998. This story of a humble house painter turned vaudeville star (thanks to his penguin pals), will be directed by Jeff Steitzer.
For slightly older audiences, OyamO's Pink And Say tells of a Black Union soldier helping an injured White Union soldier during the Civil War. Based on a true story, OyamO's tale is adapted from the book by Patricia Polacco and directed by Linda Hartzell. The show runs Feb.13-April 5, 1998. If the aforementioned Popper's P aren't your cup of tea, you might feel more comfortable with amphibians, specifically Frog And Toad, March 6-May 17, 1998. Despite their different personalities, Frog and Toad are best friends who share extraordinary adventures. Mark Lutwak directs this adaptation of Arnold Lobel's story by Y York [sic].
Closing the season in a tempestuous way is The Tempest, William Shakespeare's light-hearted drama of a mystical man shipwrecked on a desert island with his growing daughter. Rita Giomi adapts and directs the tale for young audiences (9 and up). Previous classics adapted specifically for SCT include 1995's Romeo And Juliet and 1997's The Odyssey.
Those hoping to contribute to SCT's ongoing success might want to attend their 13th annual Backstage Celebration, May 5, at the Spanish Ballroom of the Olympic Four Seasons. Sponsored by Washington Mutual Savings Bank, the celebration will benefit SCT's productions and educational outreach programs. Highlights from the 1996-97 season, as well as a performance by students enrolled in the SCT Drama School, will fill the evening with fun. Tickets range from $150 for sponsors to $5,000 for corporate benefactors.
For tickets, subscriptions and information on Seattle Children's Theatre, call (206) 441-3322. Single tickets go on sale Sept. 8.
--By David Lefkowitz