It may have been a few years since Northwestern students last slid down a slide or attempted the monkey bars, but Purple Crayon Players will try to tap into the kid in all of us with its second annual production of PLAYground: A Festival of Fresh Works.
Kelby Siddons, the group’s former artistic director, created PLAYground to showcase works by young playwrights that the group would not normally perform for their mainstage shows. She wanted to give playwrights a chance to see their works produced and performed in a “supportive, university environment where they can get feedback,” according to Emily Olcott, co-producer of PLAYground and a freshman in the School of Communication.
This year’s festival will feature three plays, each targeted at a different age group. The Creator by Jessica Puller explores the concept of imaginary friends and what happens to them when children stop believing. Inspired by an Armenian folk tale, D.W. Gregory’s Tales Between the Threads, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who comes up with an educational bedtime story for her younger siblings. With Nasty/Nocturnal by Ramon Esquivel, two plays work together to present different teenage relationships as the characters discover who they are through their Internet identities.
What sets PLAYground apart from other student-run productions on campus is that the audience will get a chance to participate in the creative process of the plays. Each play is a staged reading with more subdued technical elements, like costumes and lighting.
“It’s really about the work,” Olcott says.
In addition to the stripped-down production, the audience will participate in a unique opportunity to meet and discuss the performance with the playwright. Audience members will provide feedback for the authors on what worked and what didn’t.
“I think the normal theatre experience is to go, sit in the dark and leave without opening your mouth,” Olcott says. “I think this is cool because you get to share your opinion with the audience and the people who wrote the work.”
Although the productions are geared towards younger audiences, Communication sophomore Kimi Greer, director of Tales Between the Threads, says people of any age will enjoy PLAYground.
“I’d like to think it appeals to people from 10 to 100,” Greer says.
Greer says students will not only find Tales Between the Threads funny, but as cliché as it may sound, they will also learn a lot about themselves from the play.
“I want to show college students and Evanston students who are younger about the importance of being yourself and being confident,” Greer says.
Along with wanting to show NU students they can enjoy theatre for younger audiences, Olcott and her fellow producer Amelia Hefferon have simple goals for this year’s PLAYground.
“We want to come away knowing we gave a positive experience for our team, a rewarding experience for the playwrights and an enjoyable experience that the audience can come away with,” Hefferon says.
PLAYground: A Festival of Fresh Works kicks off this Saturday at the Hal and Martha Hyer-Wallis Theater in the Theatre and Interpretation Center with The Creator at 2 p.m., Tales Between the Threads at 4 p.m. and Nasty/Nocturnal at 6:30 p.m. Each play is followed by a 30 minute talk-back with the playwright. Tickets are free and can be reserved in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.