Most-Produced TYA Plays & Playwrights of the 2019-2020 Season

This year, we reviewed the season announcements from 53 theatres in the TYA/USA national membership creating performances for school and family audiences (296 productions in total) to report on the most produced plays and playwrights across the national TYA landscape.

Matilda the Musical at First Stage (Milwaukee WI). Photo: Paul Ruffolo

The Most-Produced Titles of 2019/20

The number following each production indicates the number of distinct productions of the play opening in the 2019/2020 season across the TYA field.

  1. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, Book by Dennis Kelly/Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin: 6
  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas, By Charles M. Schulz. Based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. Stage adaptation by Eric Schaeffer:
  3. Elf the Musical, Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, Music by Matthew Sklar, Lyrics by Chad Baguelin: 5
  4. Ella Enchanted: The Musical, By Karen Zacarías, Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, adapted from the book by Gail Carson Levine: 5
  5. Pete the Cat, Book and Lyrics by Sarah Hammond, Music by Will Aronson, Based on the Pete the Cat series of books by Kimberly and James Dean: 5
  6. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical, By Jahnna Beecham & Malcolm Hillgartner
    Adapted from the book by Barbara Robinson: 4
  7. Dragons Love Tacos, By Ernie Nolan, Based on the book by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri: 4
  8. Ghost, By Idris Goodwin, Adapted from the award-winning novel by Jason Reynolds: 4
  9. Go Dog Go!, Adapted by Allison Gregory and Steven Dietz. Composed by Michael Koerner. Based on the story by P.D. Eastman: 4
  10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Adapted by Joseph Robinette, based on the book by C.S. Lewis: 4
  11. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, Created by Jonathan Rockefeller, based on the books of Eric Carle: 4

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience at Seattle Children's Theatre. Photo: Elise Bakketun.

The Most Produced TYA Artist

Deborah Wicks La Puma: 15 productions, 6 titles

For the second year in a row, Deborah Wicks La Puma is the most produced TYA artist across the country. Her music is featured in 15 different productions this season (up from 13 productions last season) across the following titles:

Ella Enchanted, Elephant & Piggie: We Are In A Play!, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical, The Magical Piñata, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience; and OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist.

The Most-Produced TYA Playwrights of 2019/20

  1. Mo Willems: 8 productions, 3 titles (co-created with Deborah Wicks La Puma)
  2. Karen Zacarías: 7 productions, 3 titles (co-created with Deborah Wicks La Puma)
  3. Ernie Nolan: 6 productions, 3 titles
  4. Allison Gregory: 5 productions, 2 titles (with one of the titles co-written with Steven Dietz)
  5. Sarah Hammond: 5 productions, 1 title (co-created with Will Aronson)
  6. Barry Kornhauser: 5 productions, 2 titles
  7. Joseph Robinette: 5 productions, 2 titles
  8. Cheryl L. West: 5 productions, 3 titles
  9. Idris Goodwin: 4 productions, 1 title
  10.  Robert Kauzlaric: 4 productions, 2 titles
  11. Finegan Kruckemeyer: 4 productions, 2 titles

The Most Produced Playwrights of Original Stories in 2019/20 (Not Based on Existing Source Material)

Nearly every play written by the most-produced TYA plawrights represented in the list above is based on previously existing source material from children’s literature. This year, we’re including a list of the most produced playwrights of plays that offer completely original stories.


  1. Finegan Kruckemeyer: 4 productions, 2 titles
  2. Jose Casas: 3 productions, 2 titles
  3. Drew Petersen: 3 productions, 3 titles
  4. Eric Coble: 2 productions, 1 title
  5. Paige Hernandez: 2 productions, 1 title

The Migration of Titles Across the TYA Landscape

This season, we tracked the impact of titles commissioned by one theatre, that are later produced by other theatres. In this way, we can measure the impact theatres are having on the overall TYA canon, and learn more about the way titles migrate across the TYA field.

The following list is organized by the number of titles originally commissioned by each theatre, now being produced by other theatres in the 2019/2020 season. We’ve also included the total number of productions that will be staged from those titles.


  1. Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle WA: 9 titles, 15 productions
  2. The Kennedy Center, Washington DC: 7 titles, 10 productions
  3. Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN: 5 titles, 13 productions
  4. First Stage, Milwaukee, WI: 4 titles, 9 productions
  5. Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago, IL: 3 titles, 5 productions
  6. Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville, TN: 3 titles, 9 productions
  7. Adventure Theatre MTC, Glen Echo MD: 2 titles, 6 productions
  8. TheaterWorksUSA, New York, NY: 2 titles, 6 productions
  9. Lifeline Theatre, Chicago, IL: 2 titles, 4 productions
  10. Imagination Stage, Bethesda, MD: 2 titles, 2 productions

Noteworthy Trends

In analyzing the TYA 2019/2020 season, we’ve identified some interesting trends emerging from the productions and artists populating stages across the country.

Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems has taken the TYA scene by storm, with five books adapted into successful live performances produced by theatres across the country. This year, he was also named The Kennedy Center’s first ever Education Artist-in-Residence, providing a platform for inter-disciplinary experimentation and creation across the arts campus.

Ghost, Nasville Children's Theatre (2018)

Season selection across the country shows a promising increase in representation, specifically in works that feature the stories of contemporary young people of color, with works including Idris Goodwin’s adaptation of Ghost (4 productions); Jose Casas’ La Ofrenda (2 productions); Alvaro Saar Rios’ adaptation of On The Wings of a Mariposa (first production); Marisela Treviño Orta’s adaptation of Return to Sender (first production); and Stages Theatre Company’s adaptation of Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin (first production).

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Broadway and commercial theatre continues to influence the work produced by TYA theatres, with several of the top 10 titles originally developed outside of the TYA field for a mainstream audience. While the trend typically flows from Broadway to TYA (with titles like Matilda and Elf now making their way to TYA stages), this season offers the reverse trend as well, as TheaterWorksUSA’s The Lightning Thief makes its Broadway debut after a successful national tour.

The Riddle of the Trilobites, CollaborationTown @ Flint Repertory Theatre

While new work development programs like New Visions/New Voices (Kennedy Center), Write Now (Chlidsplay), and New Plays for Young Audiences (NYU) have significantly helped expand the TYA canon over the past few decades, a relatively new program is helping to diversify and enrich the TYA landscape in content and form.  New Victory LabWorks, launched in 2012 and focused on cultivating new work in the TYA field, has shown significant impact across the sector with the works it has supported through early development. LabWorks projects that will be seen across the TYA 2019/2020 season include:

  • The Acrobuffos’ Air Play, which has toured around the globe and continues to delight audiences internationally
  • CollaborationTown’s The Riddle of the Trilobites, which premiered at Flint Repertory Theatre last year, and will perform at The New Vic this season
  • Kaneza Schaal & Christopher Myers’ Cartography, which premiered at The Kennedy Center last year, and will also perform at The New Vic this season
  • Howie D: Back in the Day, which will premiere at The Rose Theater in early 2020