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    Posted July 23, 2008

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The Playground Theatre

South Florida Equity Theatre Performing for Children

By Marjorie O'Neill-Butler - South Florida Equity Liaison Committee Member

The Playground Theatre in Miami Shores, Florida, is Equity’s newest South Florida member and the only professional Equity theatre performing for children in the area. Starting with Guest Artists contracts, the theatre’s first production opened in April 2005 with a production called PLUFT, THE LITTLE GHOST. They worked with GA contracts for three years. This year they went to the full TYA contract and employed seven Equity actors.

PGT’s work, which is exciting and imaginative, has included A VERY OLD MAN WITH ENORMOUS WINGS by Gabriel García Marquéz, adaptation and lyrics by Nilo Cruz, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER adapted by Vyacheslav Dolgachev, THE LOVE OF THREE ORANGES adapted by Stephanie Ansin, BROOKLYN BRIDGE by Melissa Jane Gibson, and an original, modern version of ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND written by Stephanie Ansin and Fernando Calzadilla.

Two shows were produced for ages 16 and up including Arthur Miller’s THE CREATION OF THE WORLD AND OTHER BUSINESS and the Soviet drama THE BEAST by Vladimir Sinokevitch and Mikhail Gindin.

I asked Artistic Director Stephanie Ansin, some questions about the Theatre:

What is your philosophy about Theatre for Children?
This is an important question for me to try to answer. Thanks for the opportunity. I think it’s just the beginning of a process of attempting to articulate my “philosophy...” I look for material that sparks my imagination and communicates important messages for young people. I try to put my whole being into the work, and I encourage the actors to do the same. I hope our work encourages audiences to think “outside the box” when solving problems and believe in their individual expression of their thoughts and feelings. When envisioning each moment of a production, I try to instinctively connect with the kids we want to reach and trust my child-like sensibilities and the children’s intelligence.

You have a really long rehearsal period. Has this always been the way that you work?
I have worked in other theaters with shorter rehearsal periods, but when it’s up to me, I have about 8 weeks of rehearsal for a full-length play.

Where do you get your designers and how do you work together?
So far designers have come to PGT via accidental meetings, recommendations from colleagues, and pre-existing work relationships. Our ways of working together completely depend on the specific designer. For example, for THE LOVE OF THREE ORANGES, I sent notes to the set and costume designer, Emil Kapelush, in Russia, and he sent me set sketches and a model, and then we had one meeting in Miami, and that was it. We barely made any changes after he presented his proposals. For ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, on the other hand, Fernando Calzadilla, the set, costume, and lighting designer, and I sat together in a studio for two months simultaneously developing the visual design and the script. We shaped the script to fit visual ideas and developed visual ideas based on developments in the script.

What are your plans for the future?
Our plans are to continue to entertain, educate, and delight audiences of all ages; cultivate relationships with first-rate actors, designers, technicians, and directors; seek opportunities for national and international tours; offer training programs professional actors in our community; and further develop our education and outreach programs.

What are the joys of producing theatre for children?
The kids laugh, scream, sing, dance and send us gorgeous, inspiring drawings and letters.

What are the challenges of producing work for children?
Creating work that is relevant to today’s world, but not too topical; educational without being didactic; and engages parents and teachers as well as children.

South Florida is happy to have The Playground Theatre as a part of it's professional, Equity community.

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