Children's Plays Are Naive and Sappy. 24th Street Theatre Is Bringing Them to the Dark Side

From LA Weekly Arts Today!
By Bill Raden Tue., Jan. 22 2013 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Children, Theater
Cindy Marie Jenkins
Paige Lindsey White and Mark Bramhill

See also: *Debbie Devine and Jay McAdams profiled in our People Issue

Take a look at what passes for children's theater in this country and one might well conclude that childhood constitutes a warm and fuzzy eighth dimension of tooth-aching sentimentality and genteel innocence. Never mind that two of the most disturbing news stories of 2012 only underscored the somewhat grimmer horror and uncertainty that sometimes confronts kids in our own universe.

And while December's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 young children and six adults, garnered the lion's share of headlines, even more troubling was a report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in May that revealed this country continues to have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a rate that exceeds the 23 percent child poverty suffered by Americans.

The truth is that if the world is a violent and unforgiving place for the most vulnerable and powerless members of society, there's precious little evidence of it in the sometimes condescending, primary-colored, see-no-evil fantasies that dominate our children's stages. It's a cultural disconnect that may be about to change, at least if the 24th St. Theatre's Artistic Director Debbie Devine and Executive Director Jay McAdams have their way.

McAdams & Devine.jpg
Bill Raden
24th St.'s dynamic duo, Jay McAdams & Debbie Devine

In February of last year, Devine and McAdams created LAb24, an experimental resident theater company with the singular purpose of developing and staging sophisticated and provocative theater that speaks to families of all ages. The first fully-fledged effort of the company is set to take flight this weekend in the form of their West Coast premiere of British playwright Mike Kenny's Walking the Tightrope.

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