|Dr. Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson|
Our month of #NewDayNewPlay is almost through! After today, I have only five more plays to read before the end of April. However, the first day of May also marks the beginning of the International Children's Theatre Festival, which has been rebranded as Family Theater Day at Playhouse Square.
During the week leading up the Family Theater Day (Saturday, May 5) there will be matinees for school groups, and often I have the opportunity to see some of those.
The first year I experienced the festival came at just the perfect time, as I was only just beginning my work writing plays for children. I saw several plays from around the globe and had my eyes opened to just how expansive and the palette of shows for young people could be.
Van Der Horn-Gibson's play put me in mind of those works, as the playwright delves into complicated issues which trouble children and which they may not entirely understand, issues of bullying, illness and the death of a parent.
Two children from a blended family, almost ten years difference in age, come into emotional conflict as their needs are at odds with each other. At the same time, each are coping with the unspoken fears that come with being left on their own due to a family crisis, and the fear that dwells beneath the surface. Children do not understand what is and what is not their fault, or under their own control.
Van Der Horn-Gibson tells this story, however, with playfulness, with color and humor, seeing the world through six year-old Jodi's eyes as she explores her backyard with a troupe of unique and diverse imaginary animal friends.
The best children's plays are those which are smart and open-hearted, appealing to an audience of all ages, and this is one of those.