Purple Crayon Players hosts 14th Annual PLAYground Festival of Fresh Works

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Jorge Melendez / The Daily Northwestern

Purple Crayon Players’ 14th Annual PLAYground Festival of Fresh Works will feature four works, including “The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks.”

Jamie Kim , Reporter

Purple Crayon Players’ 14th Annual PLAYground Festival of Fresh Works will celebrate plays written for young audiences this Saturday and Sunday in Seabury Hall.

The festival will feature “The Dummy Class” by playwright Dave Osmundsen, “Heart Strings” by Lee Cataluna, “Salomé’s Tour de France” by Communication senior Mariana Reyes Daza and “The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks” by playwright Cris Eli Blak. The plays will be followed by a conversation with the playwrights and directors.

PCP selected three professionally written plays and worked with the Northwestern Undergraduate Playwriting Program and Imagine U, a group that produces performances for a younger audience, to commission a student-written play. The plays are geared towards audiences between the ages of 3 and 18 and have not been published or produced professionally.

Communication junior and Festival Producer Arella Flur said she is excited that PCP looks for original theatre made for young audiences.

“A lot of what you will see at children’s theaters or youth theaters around the country are often based off of books or movies that already have a brand name to them,” Flur said. “We really care about celebrating new voices, diverse voices and bringing these original ideas to the stage.”

PCP focuses on plays that empower youth by centering the young person as the initiator of change, Flur said.

“Salomé’s Tour de France” was inspired by the bike-riding daughter of Reyes Daza’s gardener in Colombia. Salomé’s community comes together to encourage her toward realizing her dreams of owning and riding a bike.

Reyes Daza said it was important for her to create more stories for young audiences about countries beyond the United States and to inspire youth to approach their dreams step by step.

When she initially wrote the play, she said she wanted to write from a feminist perspective, but she realized this goal got lost in redrafting and tried to refocus on the goal of empowering female-identifying individuals.

She also said she is learning to incorporate more difficult topics into her stories for youth.
“At first I wasn’t diving too deep into important themes of friendship, goals and dreams,” Reyes Daza said. “But as I’ve gone through this process, I’ve reminded myself that we need to trust young audiences.”

Osmundsen’s play tells an early 2000s story about a group of neurodivergent children in a special needs class. Their teacher convinces them to join the school talent show to show off their talents.

Osmundsen said the “r-word” has a history of being used as a slur against the neurodivergent community and was rampant in the early 2000s, including among young children. Osmundsen said his play uses the r-word very deliberately to show how language can influence children and how they can use words against each other or dehumanize marginalized groups.

“I’m autistic myself; I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when I was three, so I spent a good amount of my years in elementary school in those rooms, with those students,” he said. “So I was really drawing from the perspective of growing up in that kind of environment.”

Communication sophomore Alondra Rios is the director of “The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks.” The play is about a low-income community of color and revolves around two best friends, whose mural in honor of their friend is at risk of being taken down by a developer, who is a white man from outside of the community.

Rios said she was interested in directing the play because this festival shows have a big place in her heart. She was drawn to “The Show Ends When the Stoop Breaks” because she felt like it represented minority communities underrepresented in TYA theatre. She wanted to highlight issues of discrimination, racism and the struggles these communities have but also celebrate the art they produce.

“In the play, I really try to bring out dance, music and poetry, which are big ways of expression in these minority communities,” she said.

Rios said what excites her about PLAYground this year is the range of stories being told.

“I think that’s just so beautiful how we have such a wide variety of shows from different perspectives and directors who are really bringing out these voices,” she said.

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