National TYA Season PreviewMost Produced Titles and Trends of 2018/2019

What stories will be told this year to young audiences across the country? And who will be telling them?

The majority of the Theatre for Young Audiences seasons have been announced by venues across the country, and TYA/USA has reviewed them all to bring you a preview of the national TYA offerings for 2018/2019.
Based on the upcoming seasons of TYA/USA member theaters, here are the most popular titles and notable stories of 2018/2019:

The Most Produced TYA Titles of 2018/2019

  • Elephant and Piggie’s “We are in a Play!”             – 6  (Book and Lyrics by Mo Willems / Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show                         – 5  (Created by Jonathan Rockafeller / Based on the books of Eric Carle)
  • Charlotte’s Web                                                      – 5  (Adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette / Based on the book by E.B. White)
  • Matilda the Musical                                               – 5  (Book by Dennis Kelly / Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin / Based on the book by Roald Dahl)
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical  – 5  (By Jahnna Beecham & Malcolm Hillgartner / Adapted from the book by Barbara Robinson)
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins                                          – 5
  • Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric / Music and Lyrics by George Howe    – 3
  • Adapted for the stage by Pins and Needles Productions                   – 1
  • Book and Lyrics by Jody Davidson / Music by Brett Schrier              – 1
  • Ella Enchanted: The Musical                                 – 4  (Book & Lyrics by Karen Zacarías / Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma /Adapted from the book by Gail Carson Levine)
  • Pete the Cat                                                         – 3  (Based on the series of books by Kimberly and James Dean / Music by Will Aronson / Book & Lyrics by Sarah Hammond)
  • The Snowy Day and Other Stories                       – 3 (By Jerome Hairston. Based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats / Music by Victor Zupanc)
  • Tuck Everlasting                                                    – 3 (Book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle /Music by Chris Miller / Lyrics by Nathan Tysen / Based on the novel Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)
  • Curious George: The Golden Meatball                 – 3  (Based on the books by Margret and H.A. Rey and the Play Owned by Universal Stage Productions / Book and Lyrics by Jeremy Desmon / Music by John Kavanaugh)

Noteworthy Trends in 2018/2019

Most Produced TYA Artist: Deborah Wicks La Puma is the most produced TYA artist of the upcoming season. As the composer of Elephant and Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” (6 productions), Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience (2 productions), and Ella Enchanted the Musical (4 productions), along with the upcoming She Persisted: The Musical, Ms. La Puma’s music will be heard by young people across the country this year in (at least) 13 different productions.

New Voices: Author Jason Reynolds will see two of his novels adapted for the TYA stage this season, with Ghost (adapted by Idris Goodwin) premiering at Nashville Children’s Theatre and Long Way Down produced by Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences. This follows the immersive adaptation of All American Boys (Reynolds’ collaboration with Brendan Kiely) devised by Off the Page in 2016/17.

New Collaboration Models: Chicago Children’s Theatre will co-produce a new work for the very young, The World Inside Me, with New York City’s Spellbound Theatre. This work was originally developed as part of The New Victory Theater’s LabWorks Program, and will be presented as part of The New Victory’s season in addition to a run at Miami Theater Center in 2018/19. This model of collaboration – between a large producing theater, a presenting theater, and a small-to-midsize independent company – is an inspiring model for new work development.

New Experiments: How can TYA theatres and adult regional theatres collaborate in new ways? Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte created The Second Story Project, a unique commissioning model of two plays by the same playwright (in this case, Steven Dietz), written with an interwoven theme. Both plays are set in the same house on the same evening but take place on different levels. The Ghost of Splinter Cove has young people at the center of the story. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s companion piece, The Great Beyond, takes place on the house’s main floor from the point of view of the family’s adults. Both plays are independent and stand on their own. However, audiences will gain a deeper understanding of the characters and storylines by experiencing both plays.

Seeing Double: The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis will get two totally different treatments this season – a new production at Chicago Children’s Theatre adapted by Cheryl L. West; and a staged concert reading with live music, adapted by Christina Ham and produced by The Kennedy Center.

I Read That Book!: Adaptations continue to dominate the TYA landscape, and book titles remain the most popular source of inspiration for the TYA stage. While many world premieres are gracing the stages of TYA theatres across the country, the vast majority of them are based on book titles. Here are some of the new titles from the many new productions based on books opening this year:

  • The Last Stop on Market Street – Adapted for the stage by Cheryl L. West / Music and lyrics by Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier / Co-Commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company Minneapolis
  • Blueberries for Sal – Written by Sandra Eskin and Michael J. Bobbitt / Book, Music and Lyrics by William Yanesh / Co-Commission by Adventure Theatre MTC an New York City Children’s Theater
  • She Persisted: The Musical – Script and Lyrics by Adam Tobin, Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma / Commissioned by Bay Area Children’s Theatre
  • I Come from Arizona (adapted from Augusta and Noble) – Carlos Murillo / Commissioned by Children’s Theatre Company Minneapolis
  • Hidden Heroes: The Black Women of NASA – Written by Shá Cage / Stages Theatre Company

Some notable exceptions, completely original plays written for the TYA stage this year, include:

  • Becoming Martin – by Kevin Willmott / Commissioned by The Coterie
  • The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus – by Eric Coble / Metro Theater Company and Childsplay
  • The Ghost of Splinter Cove – by Steven Dietz / Commissioned by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
  • Sparkle – by Annie Cusick Wood / Honolulu Theatre for Youth
  • Cartography – by Christopher Meyers & Kaneza Schall, Arktype / Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences
  • Return to Niobrara – by Mary Kathryn Nagle / The Rose Theater
  • A Better Place to Be – by Steven L. Fredericks / The Growing Stage

Telling New Stories to Our Youngest Audiences. The most consistently innovative sub-genre of our field, in terms of offering totally new narratives not based on previously existing books, is Theatre for the Very Young. Perhaps because the work tends to serve a much smaller audience in terms of capacity, or the audience itself does not yet read (and recognize known titles), TVY leads the way in offering new titles and experimentation in form.